Sports Angels

Albert Pujols files defamation lawsuit against Jack Clark

Albert Pujols wasn't bluffing. The Angels slugger followed through on his threat of legal action, filing a defamation lawsuit Friday in Missouri against Jack Clark for his accusation that Pujols used performance-enhancing drugs.

In the suit, Pujols accuses Clark of disseminating "malicious, reckless and outrageous falsehoods" about him, and says Clark's accusations were "an outrageous ploy to generate attention and ratings" for Clark's new sports-radio talk show.

Clark, whose show began airing on WGNU in St. Louis early in August, based his accusation on conversations he said he had with Chris Mihlfeld, Pujols' former personal trainer. Mihlfeld and Clark knew each other from when Mihlfeld worked for the Dodgers in 2000. Clark was the team's hitting coach.

When on-air partner Kevin Slaten said he long believed Pujols "has been a juicer," Clark said, "I know for a fact he was. The trainer who worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that's what he did."

Pujols contends in his lawsuit that the accusations damaged his reputation and caused him to suffer "personal humiliation, mental anguish and anxiety."

The suit does not name the radio station or InsideSTL Enterprises, the media company WGNU contracted for show, as defendants. InsideSTL pulled the plug on Clark's show immediately after the accusations became public and aired a lengthy apology on WGNU.

Pujols is seeking unspecified exemplary and punitive damages. The suit seeks "general and special damages" against Clark and asks for a determination and declaration that the statements made by Clark are false.

"Pujols brings this action for the purpose of preserving and salvaging his good name and to deter those who would wrongfully and maliciously defame him and others," the suit says. "For that reason, Pujols intends to donate the award of monetary damages received through this lawsuit to charity."

Pujols contends in his suit that he has "never used steroids and has never taken any illegal PEDs of any kind." The resolution of the case could turn on what Mihlfeld says under oath, said Donald Childress III, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University. Mihlfeld has publicly denied Clark's claims.

If Mihlfeld says he never told Clark that Pujols used steroids — and if Clark cannot offer any other evidence — then Childress said Clark might offer to settle. If Mihlfeld backs up Clark, then Childress said Pujols might offer to settle.

Childress said it was "a little risky" for Pujols to put himself in the position of being asked about steroid use under oath. If he denies such use under oath, and if contradictory evidence ever surfaces, Childress said Pujols could be subject to a federal perjury investigation and discipline from Major League Baseball.

"If you did it and you lied about it," Childress said, "you'll be in a whole other heap of trouble."

Pujols said he has nothing to hide, according to a statement released by his agent, Dan Lozano at MVP Sports Group.

"My lawyers have told me that the upcoming legal fight will not be easy, and that in cases like this even a liar can sometimes be protected under the law," Pujols said. "But as a man of faith, I have never shied away from standing up for the truth, and I believe that the principles at stake are too important to do nothing."

In his suit, Pujols calls Clark "a former major league baseball player turned struggling radio talk show host." Clark's attorney, Chet Pleban, said Clark "stands by" his statements about what Mihlfeld told him.

"Jack Clark will welcome the opportunity to litigate the matter in the courtroom," Pleban said. "He's looking forward to having a jury of 12 impartial people decide the issue."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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