by Christian Duque
When the news that The Persian Wolf, Hadi Choopan, was adamant about taking RXMuscle to court over comments made regarding his physique, it sent shockwaves throughout the sport of bodybuilding. On the one hand, I understand his frustrations. Here’s a guy who’s had to battle the odds his whole career. He’s from a country that America holds in the same regards (or lack thereof) as North Korea.
For a long time, not only couldn’t he compete, but he couldn’t even get a visa to America. He started out in The 212, trying desperately to break out of the huge shadow cast by 7x 212 Mr. Olympia James “Flex” Lewis through competing on smaller stages, worldwide. Although Choopan looked incredible, he never was able to be the top guy in said division; instead, he went into the Open, where he’s placed as high as 3rd in the Olympia, won the coveted People’s Champion title, and last year placed Top 4.
Backed by his coach Hany Rambod and with a cush deal with supplement powerhouse, Evogen, everything seems to be going great for Hadi. He’s getting top honors, he’s making big money, and the fans can’t get enough of him. Things are good in the present time, but then, poof! A group of media pundits take aim and take some digs at the Olympia hopeful. Were these digs malicious or were they basically guys trying to create content? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.
The Persian Wolf is a public figure, he’s an athlete, and he’s competing in a subjective-based sport. Everything about bodybuilding is a comparison. Guys are constantly compared to other guys, people are always analysing the sizes and shapes of muscle – how they flex, and how they look as part of a complete package, and if everything is symmetrical. That’s the nature of the beast. Some guys take critiques extremely personally, whether it’s from the fans, the media, or even the judges. They simply cannot process anything but accolades. Sadly, if you’re going to compete to have the best physique in the world, then you had better have thick skin. Now that that’s been said, I’d like to delve a little deeper.
Freedom of the press is one of the bedrock principles our republic is based upon. We want our citizens to speak freely and we definitely want the press to be able to report news. News commentary also goes within reporting, provided the commentary isn’t defamatory.
Defamation is the act of defaming an individual. This is either spoken (slander) or written (libel). To say someone isn’t a great athlete or a piece of art isn’t good, is purely opinion, and that’s totally protected. You can’t slander or libel someone based on expressing your opinion. Even if you’re talking about a bodybuilder and synthol, you can even say things like you’re 99% sure that there’s something suspicious in his arms, delts, calves, etc. That’s also protected. If you say you’re 100% sure, that too, could be protected. Being sure doesn’t always mean you have evidence to back it up, it just means that YOU are convinced. Maybe you’re a moron and you’re convinced the moon is made out of green cheese.
Where issues may arise is when factual assertions are made. If an athlete was accused of using SEO’s and an expert pointed to scientific data that was bunk, but knowingly relied on it to persuade the public, that could be a red flag. Did RX do this with Hadi? I don’t know what they did. Moreover, even if they had, a case for defamation is probably one of the most difficult to litigate, especially when it involves a public figure. And beyond that, not only would you have to empanel a jury, but you’d have to find reasonable minded people out of the general population that A). knew about bodybuilding, B). understood the industry, and C). would find for the plaintiff in a suit for damages.
Aside from the massive cost to file such an action and to sustain it throughout the lengthy court process, the next big issue is losses. You can always sue for what’s called nominal damages. These suits are intended to make a point. You might win $1 with such a suit, but it sets a precedent. If Hadi sued RX for defamation and won nominal damages, he might only get enough money to buy a combo meal at McDonald’s, but the precedent would be set. Then, the next time RX or another media outlets were sued, that plaintiff would rely on Hadi’s case, and if that plaintiff won, that person might get big money.
That being said, if Hadi sued with the expectation of compensatory damages, he’d have to prove that he lost work, contracts, and opportunities because of what the momos at RX said. Has he lost anything? Has any company dropped him? If the answer is no, then all he has are perceived damages – basically, nothing. You can’t ask for damages, unless you do so with specificity. There’s also the chance a court could award punitive damages. These are damages used to punish the defendant for egregious behavior. Is one, or more, host suggesting a bodybuilder has “jimmied up” a body part, egregious? Most lay people would be shocked to know the amount of steroids, diuretics, and SARM’s most bodybuilders take on a normal basis, so what’s one more substance? Does anyone think they’d throw the book at someone for suggesting SEO use? Give me a break!
Others have said, why keep talking about this? Isn’t it over? Well, it’s not over until Hadi says it’s over. He’s a well-to-do athlete who can more than afford a team of lawyers to go after RX. Plus, we don’t really know much about Choopan. He’s not the stereotypical shittalker and he’s not someone whose demeanor suggests he makes empty-ended statements. Further, he’s backed by legendary guru Hany Rambod, when it comes to his preparations and sponsorships. If Hadi or Hany threw water on this rumored lawsuit, publicly, then I certainly would stop talking about it. But they haven’t. While it’s far more likely this is old news, the potential for it being effectuated is also noteworthy. After all, there are a lot of athletes who would like nothing more than to silence nosy journalists and critical media outlets. The question is, can a bodybuilder pull that off? I doubt it.
But let’s talk about the media outlet, a bit. Could any of you imagine Dave Palumbo, Chris Aceto, or any members of The Whack Pack being deposed? For starters, seeing them grilled would be depressing/entertaining. I think most of them would cave under pressure, avoid answering questions, and/or turn on each other. It’s one thing to play around on a webcam on a bodybuilding show, but when you’re being deposed by lawyers who deal with all sorts of hostile witnesses, guys like Dave, Romano, and Aceto, would be deer in headlights.
Even Romano, who has the air of confidence and the eloquence of a seasoned writer, he too, would sweat under pressure. Anyone would. And innocence has nothing to do with it. Even an innocent person who gets deposed by aggressive-enough attorneys, will feel the pressure, and wish they weren’t there. Besides, we’ve all seen plenty of deposition videos circulating around YouTube and most are a train wreck. I can only imagine what these poor mopes would look like trying to convince plaintiffs’ counsel that they meant nothing by their commentary, that they’re just an honest media outlet being scapegoated by a thin skinned musclehead, and that they should be left to do what they do. Even if they were 100% in the right, it would be a truly awkward occurrence. Again, the odds of any of this happening are probably less than 1%, but until Hadi publicly throws water on it, it could happen. That could be is what this whole article is about.
What do you think will happen? I say nothing, you?