(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.
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?
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?
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.