Opening Bell: Lamont Peterson Vindicated After False Reports

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Photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com 

by Gautham Nagesh 

Last week the Internet lit up with rumors of another failed drug test by Washington, D.C. junior welterweight contender Lamont Peterson (above).

The smoke turned into fire when Ring Magazine reported Peterson had tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a banned substance used to accelerate weight loss, after his recent win over Kendall Holt. Peterson, who previously admitted to receiving a therapeutic testosterone injection before his win over Amir Khan, was immediately castigated on the Internet as a serial cheat, even though the D.C. Boxing Commission indicated his tests had come back negative.

Eventually the truth came out: it was Holt that had tested positive for HCG returned an atypical test result, not Peterson. The Ring retracted its original report and issued an apology, blogs changed their headlines, and it became Holt’s turn to issue denials via social media. But the damage was already done. Hundreds of commenters had already weighed in, denouncing Peterson and staining his name. Rather than distancing himself from the PED scandal that shelved him for over a year, Peterson was pressed to refute baseless allegations when he should have been preparing for the biggest fight of his career.

Curiously, the erroneous report had come from a magazine owned by Peterson’s promoter Golden Boy, under a staff that has been accused of toadying to Golden Boy boss Oscar de la Hoya. There is no denying the editorial quality of the Ring has dipped of late, but this transgression stretches credulity for the sheer lack of journalistic care paid before publishing a story that could potentially ruin someone’s career.

"We are very pleased that there has been clarification that Lamont Peterson did not test positive for any banned substances as reported inaccurately earlier today," said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “Today’s incident exemplifies the importance of accurate fact checking prior to reporting news. Golden Boy Promotions looks forward to Lamont Peterson’s next fight and furthering his career.”

According to The Ring’s own statement on the matter, the story was based on a single unnamed source. This fails the basic journalistic test, as any credible outlet will refuse to report something from an anonymous source without independently confirming it first, especially given the sensitivity of the issue (medical testing). Of course had The Ring tried to confirm the story, they would have probably found out that Peterson’s sample had come back negative on all counts.

The Internet has undoubtedly changed journalism, and the reality is that accuracy will sometimes be sacrificed as websites rush to scoop each other on the latest gossip. The Ring deserves credit for acknowledging their mistake and obtaining Holt’s statement, but the Holt story has received only a fraction of the attention that the false report about Peterson did. Blogs that were quick to blast Lamont spent a lot less time attacking Holt, or apologizing for their rush to judgment.

Fortunately Lamont is not the type to concern himself with the opinions of the chattering classes. His eyes are firmly on the prize, which he can earn by defeating Lucas Matthysse on May 18th. In the meantime, here’s hoping those of us behind the keyboards can spend a little more time working on our fundamentals, like checking everything twice before printing it.

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