Saturday, December 22, 2007

Los Angeles Times Retracts and Corrects Story on Roger Clemens' Use of Steroids and Apologizes: Tobacco Control Groups Should Take Note

The Los Angeles Times yesterday retracted its October 1, 2006 story which had reported that pitcher Jason Grimsley named former teammate Roger Clemens as someone who had used performance-enhancing drugs. In the actual affidavit, which was unsealed Thursday, Grimsley did not, in fact, name Clemens.

In response to the unsealing of the affidavit, the Los Angeles Times immediately retracted its original story, corrected it, and apologized. In fact, the paper ran its corrected story on the front page.

This retraction in no way clears Clemens of wrongdoing, since he is named in former Senator George Mitchell's report as a player who at one point used illegal steroids to enhance his performance. Clemens has vehemently denied that allegation.

The Rest of the Story

In many ways, this is an appropriate way for me to bring the 2007 year of The Rest of the Story to an end. This story has a very simple message: organizations do, from time to time, make mistakes. They do occasionally make inaccurate statements. But when that happens and the truth is brought to their attention, they do -- if they are responsible, are concerned about their credibility, and have some integrity -- retract the inaccurate information, correct it, and apologize for the error.

In 2007, The Rest of the Story has brought to the attention of many anti-smoking groups a large number of inaccurate, deceptive, or highly misleading scientific statements. With just a few exceptions, the anti-smoking groups and prominent researchers and advocates have not only ignored the truth and failed to correct their mis-statements, but in some cases they have instead attacked me and questioned my character.

I hope that the New Year is a time of reflection for the anti-smoking groups, and that they will come out in 2008 by following the lead set by the Los Angeles Times in the Clemens case: acknowledge their mistakes, correct them, and apologize for deceiving and misleading the public.

The problem is that what motivates organizations to act in this ethical way is: (1) a sense of public responsibility; (2) a concern for their credibility in the future; and (3) a degree of scientific integrity.

So far, the failure of anti-smoking groups to respond appropriately to the mistakes they have made suggests, unfortunately, the absence of these qualities.

In the pages of The Rest of the Story, the affidavit has been unsealed: many anti-smoking organizations have been named in the unethical (although not illegal) use of deceptive and misleading propaganda in order to pursue their (in some cases fanatical) policy agenda.

Just as this is now the time for Major League Baseball to respond to the Mitchell report in order to save itself, its reputation, and its integrity, this is now the time for tobacco control to respond to The Rest of the Story in order to preserve its own reputation and integrity.

Will 2008 represent a year of change, a year in which the anti-smoking groups come to terms with this unethical and inappropriate behavior? Or will it simply be more of the same: do not address the substance of the "Siegel report," just attack him, his credibility, his character, and his motives?

Based on the actions of anti-smoking groups and leaders in 2007, I have a little more hope that Major League Baseball will address its rampant steroid problem than that tobacco control will address its scientific integrity problem.

But this is the turn of a new year, and I am willing to forget the past and give the anti-smoking groups a new opportunity to make amends for their actions of the past. To do that, however, they need to turn a new leaf.

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