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If NBC’s The Biggest Loser secretly provided contestants with illicit weight-loss drugs, Joelle Gwynn’s lack of knowledge about what she was ingesting has saved her from a defamation claim.
Dr. Robert Huizenga, a sports doctor who worked with Biggest Loser contestants for 17 seasons, is suing over several New York Post stories, including one on May 22, 2016, titled “‘Biggest Loser’ Drugged Us So We’d Lose Weight.”
The story says Gwynn took a pill during the 2008 season in which she competed.
“I felt jittery and hyper,” Gwynn told the Post. “I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, Dr. H gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them. … People chastise Bill Cosby for allegedly offering meds to women, but it’s acceptable to do to fat people to make them lose weight. I feel like we got raped, too.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled that Huizenga’s claim against Gwynn failed because the physician couldn’t show actual malice on her part.
Huizenga “has not averred any facts regarding his conversations or interactions with Gwynn, or even about the existence or nature of the allegedly illicit pills, that would permit the Court to draw a plausible inference that the Gwynn Statements were untrue, such that Gwynn acted with knowledge of their falsity when making them,” writes Swain in the opinion (read here).
The judge addresses Huizenga’s next argument that perhaps Gwynn’s recollection about a conversation with him never happened. If so, Gwynn was making up the story and she gave a quote with knowledge of falsity. The problem, responds Swain, is that Huizenga never made such an allegation in his complaint. Nor did he explicitly say Gwynn was not provided with a yellow and black pill (a seeming reference to FDA-banned ephedra).
“Plaintiff’s general allegations that he is known for his ‘non-drug exercise-centric fat loss approach’ and that he and others informed the Post ‘that contestants were not given illegal drugs’ lack sufficient specificity to rebut Gwynn’s assertions or to plausibly raise an inference that Gwynn’s statements were inherently improbable or made with the knowledge that they were false,” writes Swain.
The judge dismisses the claim, although she will allow Huizenga an opportunity to make a motion to file an amended complaint if he so wishes.
Huizenga’s claims continue against the Post. The judge has not yet ruled on those, and NBC recently agreed to a deposition to answer questions about its investigation of drug use on the show and why the series was mysteriously and quietly canceled.
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