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After OSU Settlement, CrossFit Gym Owner Files Second Lawsuit

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott After OSU Settlement, CrossFit Gym Owner Files Second LawsuitMitch Potterf — Photo by Walker Evans.
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Back in autumn of 2016, news broke that The Ohio State University had settled a lawsuit filed against it by a local CrossFit gym owner, Mitch Potterf. At issue was a published claim made by an OSU-led research team, that participants who enrolled in a CrossFit study dropped out because of “overuse or injury” caused by CrossFit activities. After nine participants testified under oath that their reasons for dropping out had nothing to do with overuse, injury or CrossFit activities, a judge signed a settlement that awarded Potterf $145,000.

Cash prizes are nice, but the story continues to evolve. Potterf also filed a lawsuit against the National Strength and Conditioning Association for the misinformation published and disseminated in its academic journal, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In 2015, the journal issued an erratum, retracting the published statement regarding overuse and injury. Last week, the journal posted a retraction of the entire 2013 CrossFit article“CrossFit-based High Intensity Power Training Improved Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition.”

In scholarly publishing, retractions of entire articles are quite rare. In the announcement, the journal indicates that the reason for retraction was that the CrossFit study was not performed under an “IRB approved protocol for the study.” In academia, IRB stands for “Internal Review Board.” In undertaking any study, researchers must first seek approval from an institutional board, and in seeking that approval, the researchers must disclose the details of every aspect of the study. Those approved study protocols are also typically disclosed on informed consent documents that participants sign.

The letter indicates that the study was performed outside of approved procedures.

Further, the retraction notice also mentioned the 2016 ruling using strong terms, saying, “The injury data reported by the authors in the article was false.”

Is the case closed now? Not quite. Potterf’s attorney, Patrick Quinn, offered this response today:

“The retraction issued today by the NSCA is the very same relief that Mr. Potterf and Ohio Fit Club sought long before even filing suit over the article. We are gratified that, albeit years later, the NSCA has finally acknowledged what has been the truth all along — that none of the study participants were injured at Mr. Potterf’s gym, nor did they drop out of the study as a result of injury or overuse caused by Mr. Potterf or Ohio Fit Club. We look forward to continuing with the pending litigation against the NSCA, and look forward to demonstrating to a jury the amount and extent of monetary damages caused by the NSCA’s publication and perpetuation of false information and claims over a period of years.”

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