Katinka Hosszu may have won another Olympic medal but she lost her libel lawsuit against Swimming World magazine.
The Hungarian swimmer, who just won her fourth Olympic medal, sued Swimming World last year over its 2015 article by former Olympic athlete and Canadian swimmer Casey Barrett, “Are Katinka Hosszu’s Performances Being Aided.” The lawsuit also included Barrett’s personal blogpost “The Smell of Smoke” and other articles by Barrett. Hosszu, known as the Iron Lady, sued for libel, saying the articles claimed she used performance-enhancing drugs.
But, her lawsuit was dismissed Aug. 12, 2016, with the judge ruling that the clearly marked commentary was protected by the First Amendment. Barrett declined to comment to iMediaEthics. We’ve contacted Swimming World and Hosszu’s lawyers for comment.
iMediaEthics reported on Hosszu’s lawsuit last fall.
Both sides of the case agreed Barrett’s articles noted “he [Barrett] did not have any proof, such as failed drug tests, to demonstrate that Hosszu ever used performance-enhancing drugs,” according to the ruling. In addition, the ruling noted, “Barrett conceded that his suspicions about Hosszu could be wrong, and stated that he hopes they are,” but that he pointed to her quick recovery time, her high level of performance and her performance in comparison with other swimmers.
According to the ruling, Hosszu “claims that sponsors discontinued backing her, that she has been subjected to heightened drug testing, and that she is questioned about the ‘doping allegations’ at every interview.”
The judge, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow, noted that the style of Barrett’s writing was commentary. Swimming World Magazine‘s article was “clearly designated” as commentary “in three separate places,” the judge wrote, in addition to the article’s “highly informal writing style.”
“Despite the colorful language, Barrett intended his audience to seriously consider the question he was raising — whether Hosszu might be enhancing her performance with drugs,” the judge wrote. Further, the question regarding performance-enhancing drugs was “a personal opinion that is not susceptible of being proved true or false.”
Courthouse News Service uploaded the ruling here.
NBC broadcaster Dan Hicks was criticized earlier this month for saying that Hosszu’s husband Shane Tusup was “the guy responsible” for her success at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, iMediaEthics previously reported.
Hat Tip: Courthouse News Service