Every time another name gets leaked from the list of those who failed major league baseball's initial foray into steroid testing in 2003, there are two responses. There are those who want the whole list revealed, either for punitive reasons or to end the water torture, and, in much quieter tones that are barely heard above the din, there are those who point out that the list was meant to be confidential and that leaking the names in whatever amounts is wrong.
According to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second group has been right all along. The court has ruled that federal investigators were wrong to seize the list of 104 names from the company that conducted the drug testing because their search warrant only covered 10 names involved with the investigation into BALCO. The government argued that the other names were found during fair view, roughly akin to seeing a gun during a routine traffic stop, but the court dissented.
For a detailed analysis of the legal issues, which seem to have pretty far reaching impacts on information in digital society, we'll have to direct you elsewhere. We're mostly concerned with (and far better equipped) to discuss what this means for baseball.
The first thought that comes to mind is that it may make attempts to prosecute Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens more difficult if the results of that test are tied into the perjury cases being built against them. Bonds was connected to BALCO, of course, so this may not have any effect but fruits of a poisioned tree are always going to be looked at differently.
The other question has to do with those aforementioned leaks. There were ethical and legal questions about their existence before this ruling, but now it can't be any clearer that these names should never have come to light. That doesn't mean they won't stop coming, though. Who knows how many people have seen the list and shared its contents, which means destroying it now won't do much to put off people who weren't put off by questionable conduct in the past.
In other, folksier terms, the barn door may be closed but there ain't an A-Rod left in the stalls.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.