The suit centered around an opinion piece written by Barrett and published on Swimming World‘s website, a story called “Are Katinka Hosszu‘s Performances Being Aided?” The story raised questions about Hosszu’s legality concerning anti-doping rules based on her extreme endurance and success in the pool, though the story noted that there was no proof Hosszu had ever failed a doping test.
That piece was published in May. In November, Hosszu sued Barrett and Swimming World for defamation, claiming that the allegations that she was doping were untrue and that the site knew they were untrue even as they published the story.
The case wrapped up this month, just under a year from when the suit was filed. Judge G. Murray Snow granted a motion to dismiss filed by Barrett, Swimming World and Sports Publications Internationa, Incorporated, ruling that Barrett’s piece was protected speech under the 1st Amendment and was clearly designated as opinion, rather than fact.
The specifics of the case lean on court precedent stating that “the threshold questions in defamation suits is… whether a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the statement implies an assertion of objective fact.”
Snow’s decision notes that Barrett admitted in the first sentence of his piece that “there is no proof” that Hosszu was doping, and wrote the story based on his own analysis of facts about Hosszu’s career. Snow also points out that Barrett’s story was designated three times as “commentary,” suggesting a statement of opinion, rather than an assertion of facts.