Katinka Hosszu Sues Casey Barrett, Swimming World For Libel After Doping Allegations

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu has filed a libel lawsuit against writer Casey Barrett and the parent company of Swimming World Magazine for an editorial published on Swimming World‘s website alleging that Hosszu should be suspected of doping.

The editorial, titled “Are Katinka Hosszu’s Performances Being Aided?” was published last May as an opinion piece by Barrett, a former Olympic swimmer for Canada who has been writing for a documentary about East German doping at the 1976 Olympics.

Despite noting there was no proof and that Hosszu had never failed a doping test, the story pointed to Hosszu’s legendary endurance and her ability to swim multiple events back-to-back as evidence that should at least start a conversation about Hosszu allegedly using outside means to improve her performances in the pool.

Hosszu responded very quickly after the piece was published, denying the use of any illegal methods in her swimming career and mulling legal action against Barrett and Swimming World.

Last week, Hosszu officially filed a suit against both Barrett and Sports Publications International Incorporated, which produces Swimming World Magazine and its companion website.

Hosszu will sue for Personal Injury: Assault Libel & Slander after filing with the Phoenix Division Office of the Arizona District Court. (Sports Publications International is based out of Phoenix, Arizona). Bridget Bade is listed as the presiding judge in the case.

The full civil complaint can be viewed here.

Hosszu’s lawyers, reached for comment, said it was their policy not to discuss the legal aspects of the case in the press and only recounted the events that caused the suit to be filed.

“When Swimming World did not retract the piece, and after we learned that the publication knew the allegations were untrue, we felt we had no choice but to pursue legal action,” said attorney Todd Roberts.

Barrett said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it at this time.

SwimSwam has reached out to Swimming World for comment with no response. SwimSwam will update if a response is given.

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Hank

Although she is in the moral right here, it seems like a weak lawsuit. Opinion pieces are just that, the opinion of one writer, not the media corporation.

The Grand Inquisitor

Far from quieting the doubters, a lawsuit will only draw more attention to the question.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/16/sports/cycling-armstrong-is-suing-accuser.html

David Berkoff

I think she has quite an uphill battle on this one. If Larry Flynt cannot be held liable for writing a parody Hustler Magazine article claiming that Larry Falwell had a torrid sexual relationship with his mother, an opinion piece about Hosszu possibly being a doper is not going to go very far. This is the USA where Free Speech has less limits than the right to bear arms. This is what the most conservative US Supreme Court Justice who sat on the bench in 1988 (Rehnquist) said in his opinion reversing the multi-million dollar jury verdict against Flynt: At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas and… Read more »

SpeedoArenaJaked

David, There is a vast difference between Jerry Falwell and Hosszu in terms of being a public figure. Falwell had tv programs, a university, and a pulpit from which to preach his hate and hypocrisy. He was known all over the USA, in each corner of our republic, by almost everyone whose head was not buried in the sand. Hosszu is a public figure only in the world of swimming, a sport that only swimmers care about year round, and the general population every Olympic year. Furthermore, Larry Flynt wrote what was an obvious parody, even if mean-spirited in nature. Casey Barrett’s piece was not a parody, it was a mean-spirited invective, designed to cast aspersions on a tremendous athlete.… Read more »

SpeedoArenaJaked

Whoops, my apologies to Swimming World. I re-read the article and there is a disclaimer at the end of the article. This bodes well for Swimming World, even though they gave Barrett a platform. They have smart attorneys guiding them.

drew

I didn’t read or look at the article.. but any disclaimer should be put at the very top of the article to insure there isn’t any confusion

and barrett should have qualified any comments she was making by clearly stating that she had no proof or knowledge to the fact prior to making those remarks..

it is wayyyyy too easy for these type of things to stick with Olympic athletes.. especially those outside of the US (and even more so if they are from certain places)

fina bites

Swimming World: Given their disclaimer and their long history of commitment to ferreting out the truth about doping in swimming, their motives were likely relatively pure, in my opinion. Whether or not they were overzealous in this quest, I’m honestly not sure about and I guess the courts will decide. At the time I gave them the benefit of the doubt, though now I’m not so sure. I look forward to learning more about the case so I can understand more about where the limits of free speech lie and what constitutes libel/slander, regardless of motivation/intent. As for Casey Barrett, he is a he, not a she; he was an Olympic semi-finalist swimmer for Canada in 1996 and is an… Read more »

coacherik

I remember reading that article. I think.. I believe the disclaimer was not up right away, added after the fact.

ohioswimmer

If you look at her official website, including the “IronLady Store”, it is clear she considers herself a public figure. She is a well known sports star, has mutiple endorsement contracts, has written 2 books, and has products she sells using the Iron Lady moniker. She has clearly mastered the art of being a true professional swimmer, making an enormous amount of money. She shamelessly markets herself at pretty much every opportunity. Does this means she dopes? Of course not. But she will be hard pressed to argue that she is not a public figure. She makes a good deal of money being one.

Kirk Nelson

“She shamelessly markets herself at pretty much every opportunity.”

This seems unfairly harsh. Professional swimmers are making a pittance compared to professional athletes in some other sports. I can’t begrudge her for the desire to make as much money from the sport while she’s still able to.

Ohioswimmer

You are right. Probably too harsh. Other swimmers could take some lessons from her ability to market herself. She can be a little over the top with the Iron Lady thing and in my mind makes her not as likable as some of the other top swimmers. She certainly deserves the money she makes.

Alec

The Falwell article was okay because it was ruled to be obviously satire. Which is protected by the 1st amendment.
This is entirely different. What cinstitutes Libel is pretty simple:
Was it false?
Was it published?
Did it injur the plaintiffs reputation?
Now if the court rules Hosszu is a public figure then she has an uphill battle due to the actual malice standard for public figures and officials.
Actual Malice is essence means was the content published with knowledge of falsity (can’t be proven) or reckless disregard for the truth (she may have a case with this).
Either way it’s far different from the Falwell situation.

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Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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