Cold War Echo


(pic courtesy Dirty Dangle)  

(Moscow native Andrey Osadchenko wanted to weigh in on the recent "Ovechkin on Steriods" controversy)

If you read John Steigerwald’s column about Ovechkin’s alleged steroid use and you listened to him argue with Ryan Lambert on the radio show about it and your initial reaction wasn’t ‘Wow!’ you are not an easy person to impress.

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I guess I can put myself on the same page with Mr. Lambert here in terms of experience. Just like him I’ve been in the industry for “about 20 minutes”. I have never been to an NFL dressing-room. Never in my life have I covered football. I don’t even care about the sport. In fact, I find it rather strange that I have to bring it up in a hockey blog. However, apparently Mr. Steigerwald finds it somehow relevant to the topic, so I may as well be honest with him.

My overall experience in hockey journalism is about the same as Lambert’s – 5 years. It’s fairly certain I look at Steigerwald’s recent comments about Alexander Ovechkin somewhat differently than Ryan however. Being born and raised in Moscow – just like Ovie – I feel deeply insulated by Steigerwald’s insinuations.

I’m not going to waste your time recapping the dialogue Steigerwald and Lambert had. But I am going to ask a question – perhaps, I was taught wrong in the journalism school I attended, or I’m still having troubles understanding English, but how is this whole Ovechkin thing not an act of libel?

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Google ‘defamation’ and you will likely stumble across this paragraph: ‘defamation— […] also called libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published’.

Having listened to the show carefully, I think it’s fair to say that Steigerwald made a claim that gave a negative image not only to Alex Ovechkin himself but also Russia as well.

Steigerwald failed to provide his audience with any legitimate evidence of Ovechkin doing steroids. This is a fact, which is something he ironically cherishes. He also failed to remember what sports Ovie’s mom (Tatiana) competed in. That would suggest Steigerwald isn’t familiar with her and his opinion on her relationship with PEDs is, again, unsubstantiated. Also, if anything, it’s unlikely she did steroids since they badly affect the ability to give birth. For the record – Tatiana Ovechkina is a mother of three

It’s amazing not only that Steigerwald deliberately put his creditability on a line, but that he wasn’t really asked to answer for his claims. Accusing Ovechkin of doing PEDs based on nothing but rumors and the Russian background of the Capitals captain can be seen as chauvinism. Or what’s the word for judging someone by his nationality or ethnicity? Uh-oh, Mr. Steigerwald.

Does Steigerwald apply a similar logic to all players regardless of their ethnical or cultural background? What would it look like if he did? What if PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens doesn’t report to a morning practice one day? Would Steigerwald publish another column suggesting PK was selling illegal drugs on the streets? Why, the word is out there, he is African-American, isn’t he? No, he wouldn’t. Because not only is it a lie but it’s explicitly racist as well.

What if David Booth’s production goes downhill? Is that because his gang has a rough time protecting the hood from other gangstas? Well, he is from Detroit, isn’t he? Who hasn’t heard of that place, right?

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No, Steigerwald would never do that. Despite the fact it’s obviously ridiculous, it’s also libel. It didn’t stop him from publishing his not-so-educated guess about Ovechkin though.

Besides, how come Steigerwald’s logic wasn’t tested by a simple question – why would Ovechkin stop doing steroids if he did them before? Did he wake up one morning and all of a sudden decided to clean up? Did he try to find out what would it be like without them? Was that a new challenge for him?

That’s weird. People from ‘the culture he comes from’ just don’t do that. A noble Russian? Pfft, those don’t exist!

If writing columns like that is what Steigerwald calls a journalism, which he brags about being so experienced in, it’s not exactly the kind of journalism one should be proud of. Some find tabloids amusing, but most people just laugh at them.

I’m glad that’s how most people from both sides of the Atlantic responded to Steigerwald’s innuendo at least.

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  • Oilerbill

    I didn’t think his article was given more than 5 minutes of attention. I don’t think his comments damaged Ovechkins reputation as much as it damaged his own as a reputable journalist.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Thanks for the article and for taking this guy to task…

    But I think you are way off base on this claim:

    Despite the fact it’s obviously ridiculous, it’s also libel.

    In commonwealth countries (ie. Canada) the laws for libel and slander are laxer (ie. make it relatively easier to submit and win claims) BUT there is still a very strong legal burden to be met (and for good reason).

    In the states, however, where this would have to be litigated (as the “harm” took place there) the First Amendment is nearly iron clad and to win a libel or slander suit is very, very, very tough. And for good reason (a society in which free speech can be curbed through the backing of the state by juridical means tends not to be very welcoming to the free flow of ideas).

    If he testified under oath and perjured himself that would be a different issue.

    At any rate, I wholeheartedly agree with your taking this guy to task… but let’s keep the legal system out of it (if only because the case would be dismissed before you got a foot in the door).

    ps. i have no idea what the Russian laws and case history on libel and slander are.

    pps. i think you mean “insulted” not “insulated” – not trying to be a dick, the sense of the sentence is changed quite a bit.

    • It doesnt need to be litigated to be Liebel. Just like it wouldnt have be litigated for hate crimes if I told some bad racist jokes. It’s still racism.

      To some degree I’m sure Journalists would like to hold themselves to their own (higher) standards regarding their practice than just what the law in any given country says.

      That whole speach was pedantic.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        I get what you are saying… but libel is an explicitly juridical term.

        It’s true that some juridical terms enter public rhetoric in non-juridical contexts… slander certainly has (Ann Coulter wrote a book under that title and it wasn’t a historical study of case history I can tell you that!), or rape (you might here someone say “x team was raped in y deal” or “robbed” or something)…

        But… those are cases of hyperbole (i don’t really have a problem with them)

        And… libel doesn’t function that way. I’ve never heard someone use the term outside of the juridical sense

        And… I didn’t get the sense that Andrey was arguing simply that this guy was wrongheaded, uninformed, misinformed, misleading, derogatory, inflammatory… etc… but that he had committed an offence.

        There’s a fair bit of oxygen between those two things and I think it’s worth taking account of it.

        For example look through this site:

        their tag line is “sorting out the truth in politics” – they have several articles a week outlining sketchy statements, erroneous statements, etc… but the mention of libel is extraordinarily rare.

        at any rate, I agree with you and Andrey in general… take the guy to the woodshed… i just don’t see what libel has to do with it.

  • A-Mc

    What a train wreck of a radio session that was. I can understand both sides but wow did they not handle themselves appropriately; although i think i would give the edge to Steigerwald.

  • Milli

    Ya and for the record, if he was using steiods and quit, thus explaining why his production has dipped, is anyone silly enough to think that he wouldn’t be using again? Now, I am not Russian, but I loved watching Ovie play the game and hope he gets back to where he was (except against us). Futher more, unless there is proof, write it off to loudmouth dirtbagism!

  • striker777

    I also found that ” journalist’s ” comments as completely inappropriate. Ovi should sue that guy, but instead of money, have him eat this article.

  • striker777

    Moreso than ever has the press been all over hockey for all the wrong reasons. The bad press the game recieves over headshots on a daily basis. The level of violence in what should be the most exciting sport in the world.

    Hockey is a sport where muscle mass doesn’t really help a player and his overall game. This isn’t baseball where half the guys look like they jumped off the pages of muscle and fitness. A hockey players ability to skate and weave would be hindered if he was so muscular. I’ve seen more than enough players in the NHL who look almost like everyday people. Steroids and muscle mass in the game is almost ludicrous if you don’t need to be Ahnold to play.

    I just wish they would stop publishing or bringing to light all this rubbish thats turning the sport into contact figure skating. All of these brain surgeons or scientists who make these studies and bring them to the publics eye are forgetting one thing. These guys are already millionaires doing what they love, doing what they for fans that love them and idolize them and in some cases provide an escape for everyday living. This is getting ridiculous.

  • raretomediumrare

    Hearing John Steigerwald reminded me of Bill O’Reilly. I feel bad for Lambert, arguing with O’Reilly/Steigerwald’s is impossible. They use ridiculous arguments that in no way actually prove they are correct in any way.