Over the Line? Critics Conflicted on Steroids Crusader

Then there's Conte. Soon after the Playboy article appeared, Novitzky's report of his raid on Conte's headquarters was leaked to the San Jose Mercury News. In it, Novitzky claims Conte admitted giving steroids to Bonds, a story that all but convicted Bonds in the court of public opinion. Conte denies he ever gave steroids to Bonds, and has accused Novitzky of lying about his confession -- a charge he's filed in court documents under penalty of perjury. Given how hard Novitzky has worked to put people in jail for perjury, it's at least a curious omission that he was never questioned again.

"Novitzky did not tell the truth back when this began," Conte says. "And he is not telling the truth now."

Demanding Test Results

Jeff Novitzky wants results. He's just walked into the Long Beach, Calif., offices of the California Data Testing company, and the place is in chaos. It's April of 2004 and Novitzky is holding a search warrant for the confidential drug test results of 10 Major League Baseball players. And if he doesn't get them, he says, he can shut the place down.

Employees of CDT, the nation's leading sports drug testing company, are confused. The test results are from 2003, the first year baseball and its union had agreed to drug testing. If more than five percent of the players tested positive for steroids, a tougher program would kick in, but no names were ever to be made public.

Now a federal agent was demanding the results. Those in charge at CDT knew the government and the union had been in tug-of-war since November 2003, when baseball announced that 104 players had tested positive. Novitzky had first secured a subpoena for all 1,100 major league players. When the union balked, he got another for the 10 Balco clients.

In the first week of April, the union filed a motion to quash both subpoenas. The government agreed to let the wheels of justice grind on if CDT gave written assurances to protect the records and the urine samples. CDT agreed. But the next day Novitzky drove to Los Angeles, told a judge the evidence was in danger of being destroyed, failed to mention that a hearing was scheduled to quash his subpoenas, and was granted a search warrant for the Balco 10.

Hours later he arrived at CDT with 11 other armed agents. After many calls between lawyers, a CDT supervisor handed Novitzky the 10 results set out in the search warrant. Not good enough, Novitzky said, we want to search your computer system. Before long, a government computer expert was clicking through the entire directory and making copies on disks. When he was done, the government had possession of drug test records of every major league player, a bunch of NFL and NHL players, and workers in three other businesses -- more than 4,000 files in all.

Three district court judges were appalled. One asked if the Fourth Amendment's protection against illegal search and seizure had been repealed. Judge Susan Illston, who's presided over the Balco case from the beginning, called Novitzky's actions a "callous disregard for Constitutional rights." All three instructed Novitzky to return the evidence untouched.

Instead, Novitzky gambled that he'd win an appeal, reviewed the material and saw that he'd cornered the game's best player, Alex Rodriguez. He quickly asked his grand jury for and received a subpoena for the records of the 104 players who tested positive. He would eventually send out one of Bonds' urine samples for further testing.

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