Steroids are back in the news with the arrest of a Canadian doctor charged with providing performance-enhancing drugs to top athletes. It’s a major issue in the sports world, raising the question whether some of today’s most-well-known sports stars violated rules to boost their performance. At the same time, the ethics of how The New York Times handled the investigation also raises serious questions.
At the Times, steroids scandals are big news. Since December 2009, the Times has run at least 42 stories and briefs linking the latest scandal to at least 12 major athletes including golfer Tiger Woods, and baseball players Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Every one of them was analyzed for his connection to Dr. Anthony Galea, who the Times described as “a sports medicine specialist who has treated hundreds of professional athletes across many sports.”
But it’s not the names that were included in the stories that matter. It’s the names that weren’t. In 40 percent of the stories (17 out of 42), reporters refused to disclose who was leaking them information. The very first story included this nebulous sentence: “He is suspected of providing athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, according to several people who have been briefed on the investigation.”