LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A judge says Manny Pacquiao’s former conditioning coach and his trainer can go toe to toe in the legal ring.
Justin Fortune sued Freddie Roach for allegedly telling a reporter he previously used performance enhancing drugs. After denying a motion by Roach’s attorney seeking dismissal of Fortune’s complaint on grounds it violated his right to free speech, the judge set a trial date of April 10.
Fortune is an Australian native and former power lifter who moved to the United States to compete as a boxer. He trained under Roach in the 1990s and later became Pacquiao’s conditioning coach.
The alleged defamation concerns a comment Roach made in a March 2010 interview with a reporter for the online publication Ringtv.com.
After discussing boxer James Toney, Roach then told the reporter, “I think had one other fighter on steroids … Justin Fortune. I know that he’d been there before.”
In a sworn declaration in support of the dismissal motion, Roach said Fortune admitted to him that he used performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.
“During the time that I trained (Fortune), (he) told me that he had used cycled performance enhancing drugs when he was training for the World Games as a power lifter in his home country of Australia,” Roach said in the statement. “Based on the information provided me by plaintiff, I believed that (he) had used PEDs.”
Fortune denied Roach’s assertion in his own sworn declaration.
“I never told Freddie Roach that I had taken steroids,” Fortune said in his statement. “The statements were made as a result of a personal dispute between us that has been going on for years.”
According to Fortune’s court papers, Roach once sued Fortune, claiming he was owed money, but the case was dismissed.
After Fortune left Pacquiao’s training team he opened his own gym that put him in competition with Roach, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
Roach’s attorney, Rebecca Keim, maintained Roach’s statements to the reporter concerning Fortune were made in a public forum and concerned a topic of public interest. She said Fortune’s declaration was “self-serving.”
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