(CN) – Boxer Emmanuel Pacquiao can go forward with a defamation suit against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and several promoters, a federal judge ruled, finding that the Filipino pugilist showed evidence that the group conceived a career-ending plot to spread rumors that Pacquiao uses performance-enhancing drugs.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks of Nevada declined to dismiss the lawsuit, as requested by De la Hoya, promoter Richard Schaefer and Mayweather Promotions.
“A reasonable listener would understand and interpret the moving defendants’ statements to imply that Pacquiao has used and is using [performance enhancing drugs] PEDs,” Hicks wrote in a March 21 order.
The defendants made several statements in the media implying that Pacquiao was doping after negotiations over a planned fight with Mayweather fell apart in September 2009, according to Pacquiao’s amended complaint.
Schaefer allegedly told a Philippines news reporter that Pacquiao used drugs, while De la Hoya publicly compared Pacquiao’s punches to those of Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley, both of whom have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, according to the complaint.
The complaint also quotes a statement that Mayweather made during a 2010 press junket. “Pacquiao’s got the power pellets, yo, and the steroid juice,” Mayweather said, according to the complaint. “Pacquiao got the power pellets you know.'”
“All the evidence is to the contrary,” Pacquiao’s complaint states. “For more than 10 years, Pacquiao has undergone random drug tests – before and after his fights administered by state boxing and athletic commissions and has never tested positive for any performance enhancing or other drug” (emphasis in original).
In their motions to dismiss the suit, the defendants claimed that the alleged statements were not defamatory and that Pacquiao, a public figure, had failed to show that they intended malice. The defendants, including Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., and uncle Roger Mayweather, also argued that Pacquiao could not show that they had engaged in a conspiracy to defame him.
Judge Hicks disagreed, however.
“Specifically, Pacquiao alleges that defendants, together, conspired to defame him by publicly stating that he used PEDs,” Hicks wrote. “These allegations support his claim for malice. Therefore, the court finds that the conspiracy allegations are sufficient within the context of the defamation per se claim and should not be stricken from the amended complaint. Accordingly, the court shall deny moving defendants’ motions to dismiss.”
Pacquiao seeks more than $5 million in damages.