(CN) – A former Major League Baseball player claims in court that ESPN, the Associated Press and USA Today published a defamatory news article that falsely accused him and his company of selling banned performance enhancing substances to professional baseball players.
In a complaint filed in Miami- Dade County March 13, plaintiff Neiman Nix says that neither he nor his company, DNA Sports Performance Lab Inc., ever sold or recommended the use of “anabolic steroids” in sports.
Nix was drafted in 1998 by the Cincinnati Reds, and he was later signed by the Milwaukee Brewers, but his career was cut short due to arm injuries.
Nix, who is represented by Alex Hornik of Miami, Florida, claims that after his retirement he realized the standard baseball training program used by colleges and universities needed to be updated, so he developed a better training system based on the player’s particular skills and team position.
He also created a new pitching method based on a system of “biometric analysis, data collection, individualized training and physical therapy which he developed in the expectation of teaching those aspiring to pitch professionally how to maximize their athletic performance while at the same time avoiding undue injury, rehabilitating injuries and prolonging their active careers,” the complaint says.
In 2006, Nix opened the American Baseball Institute, a training and development center in Seattle, Washington, that provides athletes that aspire to play at a professional level with housing, individualized training and testing, daily practice and the exposure to MLB and college scouts.
“The success of Nix’s business outgrew its venue twice until it finally took over the former Philadelphia Phillies spring training stadium in Clearwater, Florida,” the complaint says.
According to the complaint, in late 2011 Nix was forced to sell 90 percent of his stock in the American Baseball Institute due to unfounded allegations made by Major League Baseball regarding the operation of the business.
In April 2012, Nix opened DNA Sports Performance Lab Inc., a “state-of-the-art sports science center” in Miami Beach that sells health supplements and provides diagnostic training and fitness testing services.
The complaint alleges that the health supplements sold by DNA Sports are made from substances extracted from the shed tissue of elk antlers or “deer antler velvet.”
“Deemed safe and effective, and available without a doctor’s prescription, the antler extract is formulated into natural, non- steroid supplements which can legitimately be claimed to increase physical strength, enhance athletic performance, increase energy levels, retard the aging process, sharpen memory and concentration, rejuvenate the libido, and provide many other health benefits,” the complaint says.
The complaint claims that the products sold by Nix’s company have never been banned by the Worldwide Anti-Doping Agency, which is an independent agency founded in 1999 to fight the use of performance enhancing substances in sports.
However in 2013, Nix says he was again investigated by Major League Baseball, and was accused of selling “illegal performance enhancing drugs” to MLB players.
Nix alleges that his clients and colleagues were questioned, but the MLB never found any evidence that incriminated him or DNA Sports of selling illegal substances.
In July 2016, Nix sued Major League Baseball in the federal court in Manhattan for the economic harm and allegations made against him and his company.
The complaint claims that ESPN and USA Today reported on this lawsuit and published a news article authored by the AP that stated that Nix and his company admitted to selling products that used “bioidentical insulin-like growth factor” which is derived from elk antlers, a substance that they claimed was banned by Major League Baseball.
“MLB has never stated that deer or elk antler extract is a prohibited or banned substance,” the complaint says.
The complaint says that the MLB used the article published by ESPN and USA Today to support its motion to dismiss Nix’s lawsuit, in which he claimed tortious interference and slander.
It continues to say that Major League Baseball is also supporting ESPN’s defamatory publication due to its multi-billion dollar broadcasting contract.
Nix claims that the slanderous news article portrayed him and his company as marketing and selling prohibited performance enhancing substances, and damaged his business and professional integrity.
He is seeking compensatory damages on claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“The Associated Press believes this case is without merit and plans to defend the lawsuit vigorously,” said Lauren Easton, a spokesperson for the AP
ESPN and USA Today did not respond to email requests for comment on the lawsuit.