SAN FRANCISCO -- Seven media companies, including The Associated Press, filed papers with a federal appeals court Tuesday in support of Hearst Corp.'s fight to get the names of Major League Baseball players implicated in a steroids investigation.
The names of almost two dozen baseball players appear on a federal agent's application to raid the home of a former New York Mets clubhouse employee and admitted steroids dealer Kirk Radomski last year.
The players, whose names are blacked out on the affidavit, are alleged to have purchased steroids from Radomski, who pleaded guilty to drug distribution and is expected to be sentenced to prison early next year by the same federal judge handling the Barry Bonds perjury case and all related steroids cases.
As part of his plea bargain, Radomski agreed to cooperate with federal authorities and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs for Major League Baseball. Radomski turned over the names to Mitchell, which the news organizations argue also entitles them and the public to the names.
Mitchell is expected to release his report by year's end and to name drug-using players. Those names are expected to be released publicly soon after the report is distributed to each MLB club.
"Particularly given the prior release of the names to Sen. Mitchell and MLB's right to further disseminate the names, a restriction on access to the court records cannot possibly be effective," states the brief submitted by Advance Publications Inc., The AP, Bloomberg News, CNN, the (New York) Daily News, The New York Times and the Tribune Co.
The companies also argued that search warrant affidavits are usually publicly available "because they provide the factual justification for the exercise of significant governmental power - sending federal agents into an individual's house."
Prosecutors asked a judge to keep the names under seal to protect the ongoing investigation. The MLB players' union argued that the names should be kept confidential to protect the players' privacy.
The media companies in their filing Tuesday said the players have no right to protect their names because "illegal drug purchases are not protected by any right to privacy."
Hearst made a similar court filing Nov. 21 asking the same 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New York to make the names public. A lower court had previously ruled against the company, which owns the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications.