The NSCA Sues CrossFit To Silence The Truth

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In 2013 the NSCA published what has become known as “The Devor Study” in their Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The article included CrossFit injury data that we determined to be fabricated, and the NSCA ignored our repeated urging to investigate the study before publishing it. Since then, we have been trying to shine a bight spotlight on their organization, and found it to be festering with academic and scientific corruption. It looks like it’s working.

On May 2nd, 2016, attorneys working for the National Strength and Conditioning Association filed a lawsuit against defendants Greg Glassman, Russell Berger, Russ Greene, and CrossFit Inc. The Lawsuit was filed in the state of California and alleges that the defendants committed trade libel, defamation, and used unfair business practices against the NSCA.

While there are subtle legal differences between each of these claims, they can be summarized in plain english as such: The NSCA alleges that we knowingly spread false information about them with the intent to harm their professional reputation and their business, or at least acted “with reckless disregard”as to whether these statements were true or false.

Their complaint lists nine quotes from myself, Russ Greene, and Greg Glassman as evidence, all pulled from various articles found on this blog, as well as a video produced by CrossFit.

The trouble with the NSCA’s complaint is that none of our public allegations they have cited as defamatory are false; they are all true. This fact, as well as the strategic and financial implications of the NSCA’s decision to file suit against us, leads us to believe this is a desperate and half-baked attempt to silence our criticism of their organization and its unethical publishing practices. The NSCA’s lawsuit will actually have the opposite of their intended effect- our media efforts to expose the truth about the NSCA will now increase, not decrease.  And perhaps someone should remind the NSCA’s attorneys that truthful statements cannot form the basis of a defamation claim.

It is understandable that the NSCA is lamenting their ruined reputation. What they fail to realize is they are entirely to blame. Even so, we will gladly retract and apologize for any of the nine statements cited in their complaint if they can demonstrate, with evidence, that what we have said is factually inaccurate.

Here are the nine quotes, with links to the original source material, as well as supporting evidence:

“Unfortunately, the NSCA’s corrupted science didn’t just harm CrossFit 614. The NSCA also falsely besmirched the reputation of all CrossFit affiliates, and spread the lie that they are practicing dangerous training.” (source)

Publicly available records from Ohio State University reveal that the original Devor Study did not include injury data, and the Editorial office of the JSCR pressured the author to introduce the fabricated data. The NSCA then ignored CrossFit’s repeated attempts to inform them of this fabricated data and published the study anyway. References to this study’s false data have appeared in dozens of major news publications and blogs. The study is also the JSCR’s most viewed publication of all time.

“The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) published unsubstantiated and/or fraudulent claims about CrossFit.” (source)

In 2010 the American College of Sports Medicine’s Director of Certification, Dick Cotton, organized a conference to address the problem of CrossFit’s growing popularity in the military. CrossFit was not made aware of this conference, and the resulting CHAMP document was authored by both ACSM and NSCA officials. The document was designed to impart an unsubstantiated concern for the CrossFit program to military leaders, and advertised NSCA and ACSM trainers as a safe alternative. Furthermore, the NSCA published the aforementioned Devor study, which included fraudulent CrossFit injury data.

The NSCA’s alleged authority figures are inconsistent on many topics.” (source)

They picked this quote from an article where Russ Greene demonstrated how NSCA’s authority figures were inconsistent on the topic of delayed onset muscular soreness. Perhaps they did not read the rest of the article. Lon Kilgore also provided 10+ examples of inconsistent NSCA instruction in his You Be the Judge series.

“In 2013 the NSCA knowingly published fabricated injury data about CrossFit. That didn’t work, either. CrossFit uncovered the fraud.” (source)

Knowingly: we warned the NSCA’s board and the NSCA’s editor in chief William Kraemer about the study’s flaws (and the study participant’s claims that they were never injured) before they published it in November 2013. Hence, they knew of the problems with the study before they published it. For example, they knew that Steven Devor could not say whether the alleged injuries resulted from training at a CrossFit affiliate or falling from a ladder. The NSCA admits this fact.

Published: NSCA published the Devor study in their Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The NSCA admits this fact.

Fabricated injury data: Every subject the Devor study claimed cited “overuse or injury” for failing to complete the study has sworn to the court that the claim was false. They were not injured by the CrossFit affiliate training in the study and did not tell the researchers they were, either. The NSCAhas admitted that subject testimony contradicts the injury claim and thus issued a correction.

Uncovered: I investigated the study, interviewed several subjects and the data coordinator, realized that the injury claim was false, and published my findings in the CrossFit Journal. The NSCA is well aware of these facts.

Fraud: What else do you call it when researchers fabricate injury data and the publisher keeps the false data up, while refusing to investigate credible reports of fabrication, all the while harming the reputation of its competitor?

“The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) are partners with Mr. Beddie in ICREPs, through the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals (USREPS). These organizations have all engaged in long-term, systematic, regular, and collaborative fraud—fraud that is scientific, academic, and tortious—in their representatives’ collective statements, publications, press releases, and in a paid public-relations campaign against CrossFit. We’ve documented this effort publicly and have filed suit against the NSCA in a United States District Court. Much in the manner of Beddie, the NSCA altered a study to include injuries that never occurred and fed it to media including Outside Magazine, which dutifully asked “Is CrossFit Killing Us?” in its December 2013 issue.” (source)

Partners: The ACSM and NSCA are member organizations of the US Registry of Exercise Professionals.

Fraud: As previously mentioned, the ACSM and the NSCA were both involved in publishing the unsubstantiated hit-piece known as the CHAMP document. The NSCA is also responsible for the publication of the fraudulent CrossFit injury data in the Devor study. Similar public attacks against the CrossFit brand by the NSCA have been quietly removed from their website after we filed our lawsuit against them. Don’t worry, we have copies.

Altered a study: Through documents received through a public records request from OSU, we have seen the exchanges between the the JSCR’s editorial office and the author of the Devor study. These exchanges show evidence that the NSCA is guilty of both coercive citation and is directly responsible for the inclusion of  injury data, which was not included in the original submission. The editorial office (not the peer-reviewers) made it clear to the author that his paper would not be published otherwise.

“Coca-Cola, ACSM, Pepsico, and NSCA are funding a campaign to throw CrossFit affiliate owners in jail for teaching air squats (and telling their clients not to drink branded sugar water).” (source)

At the time, Coca-Cola and Pepsico funded ACSM, and Pepsico funded NSCA. ACSM and NSCA were dues-paying members of the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals, which lobbied for licensure bills. ACSM and NSCA had officials on CREP’s board of directors, as well.

CREP submitted one such licensure bill to Georgia that would have required NCCA-accredited fitness certifications, and not recognized CrossFit’s courses. The bill punished unlicensed training as a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, punishable by up to a year in jail. Hence this bill, supported by the ACSM and NSCA’s organization CREP, would have made it illegal in Georgia for a trainer to take the L1 course, apply for and open a CrossFit affiliate, and start teaching his clients how to squat and stop eating so much sugar.

“Peer reviewers for the NSCA’s scientific publication are hand-picked by Dr. Kraemer.”(source)

As the editor-in-chief of the JSCR, the selection and oversight of peer-reviewers is ultimately Dr. Kraemer’s responsibility. If Dr. Kraemer abdicated himself of this responsibility during the Devor study, we have no evidence of it.

“The NSCA has publicly stated that they want to see state licensure requirements of personal trainers that exclude CrossFit.” (source)

At page 46, in “Personal Training Certifications: Navigating the Professional Quagmire,” Nick Clayton, the Education Coordinator for the NSCA stated that, “the next five years will bring a shift towards licensure in the personal training industry, which will likely require personal trainers to earn an accredited certification.”

He then emphasized that the CrossFit L1 is a certificate course, not a certification. Therefore he concluded, “An accredited personal training certification is more in line with passing a standardized, reviewed state licensure exam covering the key concepts that every fitness professional should know, while a certificate program is more representative of a weekend continuing education course.”

This article was published in June 2014. At this point the CrossFit L3 certification was not yet accredited by ANSI. Therefore, Clayton’s position in support of a “accredited personal training certification” as appropriate for state licensure requirements, meant that such licensure laws would include NSCA’s certifications, but exclude CrossFit’s L1 and L3.

NSCA representatives also met with Massachusetts politicians in support of a licensure bill that accepted NCCA-accredited course such as NSCA’s, but not ANSI-accredited ones, such as CrossFit’s.

The NSCA has literally gotten every single thing about fitness and health wrong for the past couple of decades. (source)

This is not an accurate quote, but has been reworded in what appears to be a desperate attempt to support the NSCA’s complaint. At 28:36, I say “These are also two organizations that have literally gotten every single thing about fitness and health wrong for the past couple decades.” I am not isolating the NSCA, but speaking about the ACSM and NSCA collectively. I go on to support and provide context for my statement:

“These are the same organizations that championed the isolation movement and long slow distance cardiovascular training that was just a little bit better than being sedentary. These are the guys that championed the diet that was killing people, the high carb, low fat diet. These are organizations that can’t even consistently and effectively describe the mechanics of a squat. They are absolute failures in terms of what their practical fitness and training advice has done for the general public and athletes. And yet they want to be the academic authorities that step in and save the public from the dangers of CrossFit.”

I stand behind every word of this.


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  2. Pingback: National Strength & Conditioning Association Sues CrossFit, Claiming Defamation | Bar Bend Blog

  3. Does the NCSA really want to give the defendants it has sued–CrossFit, Inc., Coach Glassman, Russell Burger, and Russ Greene (and more particularly the attorneys which will be hired to aggressively defend them)–the power of subpoena to force sworn testimony and the production of documents and other evidence from parties and non-parties to prove the referenced statements are true? CrossFit’s attorneys are going to have a field day. In the end, the lawsuit will turn out to be a gift to CrossFit.

  4. I’m not surprised that they are calling you out and standing up for their reputation. I’ve always felt that your version of the truth was overly maverick to the point to being libelous. CrossFit could stand alone by itself under its own merits and advances, however you have made it your recent life’s mission to bash and badmouth what you deem ‘junk science, yellow journalism and invincible ignorance’ (ironically all threatening to CF’s reputation as the stand-alone authority on all things exercise and fitness). What’s unfortunate is the lack of virtuous journalism, receptive knowledge and fallacious arguments utilized in your blog that most readers should smell from a mile away. In my circles, no one has ever accused you of making sound, unbiased arguments. In my opinion, you both have a tendency to re-word, boil things down and convolute issues to portray exactly the things which make your own points. You have to admit, your blog far from un-spun and certainly NOT un-biased. Given this, I’m surprised at the blind loyalty with which you stand behind your statements. Although having read your articles over the past year, I also am not. I guess my point is that any individual who claims to be as rational and thoughtful as you do, should also have the understanding of their own skin in the game and therefore the mostly overly-zealous approach in defending CF’s name.

    Just to point out, that this IS a blog. Its SUPPOSED to be an opinion. You have always spun it as the solid, rock-bottom, un-adultered truth (which, I think is very shortsighted – but this is beside the point). If you cared enough about the truth, maybe you could have cited and backed-up all the potentially libelous and defamatory statements as they were originally made instead of here in this addition of the blog (but this probably would have necessitated the understanding of such potential).

    Anyway, good luck with the lawsuit. It’s not cool getting sued (in case you didn’t know).

    • Ian, you seem confused on a number of points. We have never, and would never claim to be unbiased. I’d argue there is virtually no such thing.

      Second, you’ve mistakenly assumed this post is to offer support for the truth of statements we should have supported originally. We did. Nothing in this article is new. The justification provided for each quote is frequently found in the source article itself. In fact, our regular readers probably didn’t even need to read the summary of evidence for each statement because they have seen it so frequently.

      Finally, it’s both easy and safe to abstractly critique our content as convoluted, fallacious, and lacking virtue. I can’t actually respond to you because you made no specific critiques of my writing that I could interact with. This may be a good way to let your feelings out, but it’s pretty meaningless otherwise.

  5. Thank you Russell Berger for defending the CrossFit Affiliates. Last May I affiliated with CrossFit and it has been the best decision of my life. I have helped so many people get into shape, many of those people are now able to do more with their lives because they are now healthier. Please continue to do your work. If you are ever in Hayward, Ca. please come by my gym, CrossFit Fairway Park. You are welcome anytime.

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