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ESPN, FISH DECLINE INTERVIEW ON STEELERS AND HGH STORY

We’re still trying to understand this one.
Mike Fish of ESPN is an investigative reporter.  It means that he investigates things.  And so when we noticed that, for the second straight year, a high-profile NFL team was being singled out by ESPN for investigation with a story that made a big splash on the eve of a big game involving said high-profile team, we decided to investigate whether it was the result of coincidence, or calculation.
Specifically, we wanted to know why Fish and ESPN unveiled last Thursday, three days before the AFC Championship, a story regarding a potential link between a former Steelers physician and Human Growth Hormone, even though the item was based on facts nearly two years old, and contained no significant new evidence. 
We wanted to know why it seemed that Fish and ESPN were targeting the Steelers with the specter of “cheating,” while at the same time ignoring proof that other teams might very well have been doing the same thing — especially since there’s no test to detect the presence of HGH in a person’s body.
We wanted to know whether Fish and ESPN were hoping to become intertwined with the story, possibly in the hopes of driving more interest and attention to ESPN platforms. 
But, as it turns out, the investigative reporter has decided to have nothing to do with our investigation.
After being given the green light to interview Fish, we spent time compiling a fairly lengthy (I’m a lawyer, so sue me . . . actually, please don’t) list of questions, and we submitted the questions by e-mail on Sunday.
The unanswered questions appear below, after the jump. 
Kristie Chong of ESPN advised me this morning by e-mail that, after speaking with Mike Fish and his editors, ESPN has decided not to answer my questions. 
Instead, we received the following statement from Patrick Stiegman, Executive Editor and Producer of ESPN.com:  “ESPN.com’s story about Dr. Richard Rydze was the end result of a 10-month investigation into the connections between the doctor’s departure from the Steelers and his off-label use of HGH to treat tendon and ligament injuries.  The investigation included interviews with more than 70 sources.  It was posted when the investigative reporting had been completed and a thorough editorial and factual review process were completed.  The timing was not influenced by any factors other than that professional process.  ESPN.com stands behind its reporting and the timing of the story’s publication.”
With all due respect to ESPN, if they’re going to be in the business of collecting information on an investigative basis, it seems more than a bit hypocritical to refuse to participate in efforts aimed at doing the same thing when one of their stories involves circumstances inviting investigation.

Here are the questions that we submitted:
When was the story about the Steelers physician first published?
When was the first draft submitted?
Was the publication of the story delayed for any reason?
If so, what was the reason?
Was the timing of publication scheduled to coincide with the AFC Championship game?
Was consideration given to delaying the publication of the story until the week or days before the Super Bowl, in the event the Steelers qualified for the game?
Was a decision made to post the story this past week due to the possibility that the Steelers might not advance to the Super Bowl?
When were efforts to interview Dr. Rydze commenced?
When was he interviewed?
What work was done between the interview of Dr. Rydze and the publishing of the story?
After publishing the story, did you or anyone at ESPN receive feedback from the NFL or the Steelers?
If so, what was the feedback?
Were any changes made to the placement of the story on ESPN.com in response to such feedback?
Why did the original story not mention that there is no test for HGH?
Why did the original story not mention that players and coaches from other teams have been suspended for using HGH?
Did you intend to imply that Steelers players were using HGH?
Do you believe that the story implies that Dr. Rydze was giving HGH to Steelers players?
Do you have any evidence that Steelers players were using HGH?
Did you attempt to interview any current or former Steelers players as to whether they are aware of any evidence that Dr. Rydze gave HGH to Steelers players?
If so, who did you attempt to interview, and what did they say?
If not, why not?

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40 Responses to “ESPN, FISH DECLINE INTERVIEW ON STEELERS AND HGH STORY”
  1. faithrevolution says: Jan 20, 2009 12:30 PM

    Florio, you are such a freakin’ Lawyer.
    From now on, that is my standard comment to your posts.

  2. joepinion says: Jan 20, 2009 12:35 PM

    Perhaps this is the reality: ESPN gave Fish the greenlight to do the story, he drug his ass and did a piss-poor job, came up with a total B.S. story with virtually no original research, but they didn’t want all the resources they spent getting him to write the story go to waste, so the posted it anyway, and are forced to stand behind it as a supposed “investigative” report.

  3. HarrisonHits says: Jan 20, 2009 12:35 PM

    And this surprises you Mike ? ESPN is collectively a bunch of hacks who never admit or address mistakes and have often been caught taking credit for stories other people broke before them.
    Ever since spygate II I have neither watched espn or read their website. They are the worldwide joke of sports reporting as far as I’m concerned.

  4. dldove77 says: Jan 20, 2009 12:37 PM

    Well thought-out, Mike. Once again, ESPN shows why it’s a joke network and makes me feel good about my decision not to watch their network.

  5. ebapen says: Jan 20, 2009 12:45 PM

    The NFL and players union do not want to test for HGH.
    There has been a blood test available since the summer of 2004.

  6. Rob0769 says: Jan 20, 2009 12:46 PM

    “We wanted to know why it seemed that Fish and ESPN were targeting the Steelers with the specter of “cheating,” while at the same time ignoring proof that other teams might very well have been doing the same thing”
    Funny, you never seemed to want to interview Mike Fish when he alluded to the Pats having additional forms of cheating while ignoring proof of other teams videotaping defensive signals. Heck, every time I posted a link to Don Banks’ column that came out a month and a half before Spygate that talked about how videotaping defensive signals is one of the most prevalent form of cheating in the NFL, you never post that post.
    Funny, how vigilant you get when your favorite team gets accused of cheating.

  7. Simdogga77 says: Jan 20, 2009 12:49 PM

    Seriously Florio are you surprised?

  8. Crushing Touchdown Run says: Jan 20, 2009 12:53 PM

    I love all the self-righteous comments. Nobody cares what you do or don’t watch.

  9. deymond says: Jan 20, 2009 12:58 PM

    Cry me a river.

  10. kaygee08 says: Jan 20, 2009 12:59 PM

    ESPN has as much credibility as Pacman Jones.

  11. Favre2012 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:08 PM

    How do you not understand that they don’t care about you?
    It’s simple. You’re a blogger. ESPN doesn’t respect bloggers. If they did, they wouldn’t let Colin Cowherd recycle stories he finds on blogs and pretends to come up with on his own.

  12. F00kFl0ri0 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:10 PM

    Why are you complaining about ESPN not letting you investigate them? Get off of your ass and do your own investigation!!! I don’t think Fish walked up to the good Dr., and said “Hey, can I investigate you? If you won’t answer these questions, I’m going to whine and cry.” You’re a big boy who likes to criticize, so get out of the little girl panties and do some big boy work.

  13. plax18 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:18 PM

    florio did you hear that heinz field played music at the game while magahee was down!!!! i swear to god they really played actual music while he was hurt!!! you should write a story about it i promise you’ll be the only one to report it!!
    oh and also you should write a story about the steelers cheating and hgh!! i promise you will be the only to report this one to!!
    florio = joke

  14. jbruder02 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:19 PM

    The Steelers played the same music when Ben was on his back against the Cleveland Browns… that guy should be fired for playing music when a player is hurt.
    Check it out Florio, it was the same exact music. Give it a rest.

  15. Frank Burns says: Jan 20, 2009 1:20 PM

    I wonder if all the sactimonious dweebs like Vox who drooled all over this tabloid hackjob will show quite the same “objectivity” in assessing the situation now?

  16. RIRich says: Jan 20, 2009 1:23 PM

    The first joke is the assumption that ESPN even has a reputation to protect in the FIRST place!
    Secondly, did Fish attend the John Tomase/Ron Borges School of Sports Journalism? Actually, has anyone ever seen John Tomase and Mike Fish in the same room together???
    Nothing would make me happier than to see some light spread on this piece of crap organization that is the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I’d rather some credible organization be the ones shining that beacon of truth, not the joke of a network that is ESPN.

  17. stugacz says: Jan 20, 2009 1:25 PM

    This story and others like it originating from ESPN provide the NFL Network with an opening to become the authority on reporting NFL news.
    Wishful thinking:
    If only the NFL Network could get more exposure on cable channels and nail the ESPN coffin shut!

  18. Mike Florio says: Jan 20, 2009 1:26 PM

    @fookflorio (i love that name) . . . .
    the process usually begins by asking the subject of the story for an interview. just like fish did with dr. rydze. the difference? when rydze agreed to be interviewed by fish, he went through with it. espn initially agreed to let me interview fish, until they got my questions.
    so unless folks with knowledge of the situation reach out to me under the cloak of anonymity, there’s not much more that i can do.

  19. F00kFl0ri0 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:28 PM

    It’s funny that people want to subject Professional athletes to stuff that they aren’t subjected to. The only time besides getting insurance policies that the public are subjected to blood tests are during the suspicion of DUI/DWI. And those are when you refuse a breathalyzer. Hell the military only takes urine samples….

  20. BBrophy1 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:28 PM

    typical lawyer….what did you know and when did you know it! good job. You can feel validation in the fact they agreed to your interview question and then did the 180 after seeing the questions and knowing the answers could not be spun into a very favorable position

  21. Pea Tear Griffin says: Jan 20, 2009 1:29 PM

    awww….after all the posts Sunday and Monday, you really do care about the Steelers!

  22. Hollywood Wags says: Jan 20, 2009 1:31 PM

    Anything for ESPN to feed the gaping maw.
    Got to have product for those idiots like Parker and Korny to gossip about all day, and all night.

  23. Steelers2Tampa says: Jan 20, 2009 1:41 PM

    Stallone likes HGH. Did anyone see Rambo IV?

  24. clintdogg says: Jan 20, 2009 1:49 PM

    there is a test for HGH.
    right now, that test requires taking blood.
    the NFLPA will not approve such a test.
    currently the NFL is working in hopes to develop other possible tests (hair/urine/etc)

  25. eaglealan64 says: Jan 20, 2009 1:49 PM

    I thought you realised this [continue reading] was annoying as crap and weren’t going to do it …..

  26. CaptainFantastik says: Jan 20, 2009 1:58 PM

    Typical cowardice at E!SPiN.

  27. arniecarni says: Jan 20, 2009 1:59 PM

    Florio, you are such a homer. Poor squeelers could never have done anything illegal. LOL

  28. fmfnavydoc says: Jan 20, 2009 2:56 PM

    Mike,
    Did you really thing that the “sports tabloid” was really going to answer your thoughtful, probing questions???
    Neither did I….

  29. Da Oracle says: Jan 20, 2009 3:08 PM

    Self righteousness rules in the Florio household. Florio has been shown to be ignorant in regards to a test being available, but that ego won’t allow him to admit he has ever been wrong about anything else.
    Florio, people come to this website because you provide a great source of links to stories they want to read. You can self aggrandize yourself as much as you want, but if you don’t provide the links, nobody will read your opinions. If you really, really believe that the Steelers didn’t participate in organized use of HGH, let me tell you about a prime piece of real estate in the Okefenokee.

  30. wssteelfan says: Jan 20, 2009 3:23 PM

    dr. rydze sure answered ESPN’s questions like he had nothing to hide, Fish’s article even says its like no one cared what he said, possibly because nothing was wrong. ESPN sure makes it sound like they do have something to hide

  31. manbearpig says: Jan 20, 2009 3:31 PM

    Jesus there are some dumb comments on this thread (as usual).
    Florio, I’ve been critical of you at times in the past but I applaud you for following this story and attempting to get ESPN to provide some answers for this story. Excellent list of questions.

  32. bonecity7 says: Jan 20, 2009 3:51 PM

    Florio hates the Steelers!!!
    Hope this helps!!!

  33. Vox Veritas says: Jan 20, 2009 3:56 PM

    More hype.

  34. Manofsteel says: Jan 20, 2009 5:06 PM

    HGH = HITTIN” GUYS HARD

  35. shuxion says: Jan 20, 2009 5:10 PM

    I will quote Peter Griffin with one change.
    “Awful lotta Steeler’s around here”

  36. sim448 says: Jan 20, 2009 5:18 PM

    i dont say this often…GOOD JOB FLORIO- SERIOUSLY, I DESPISE ESPN(PATS FAN), THANKS FOR MAKING ESPN SWEAT A LITTLE

  37. vegasraider says: Jan 20, 2009 6:41 PM

    What gets me about both the story and you is that it was about the use of HGH for patients who are not disallowed by the NFL to take it. Face it, it quickens healing time. Any Dr. who did not prescribe it would be negligent in his duties. In their efforts to prevent “cheating” the NFL deny their own injured players the best of care, and the Dr. is the bad guy?

  38. brian_21 says: Jan 21, 2009 12:27 AM

    Great questions.
    As advice for an email interview next time, submit less questions, make the first few less difficult, less loaded, and less negative. Then at the end give a few that are vital to what you are trying to accomplish.
    In any email interview, if there are a lot lot lot of questions, and it gives a major negative vibe to the person answering … you’ll pretty much get a response rate of zero percent. See, there was an actual agreement for you to get answers! You blew it not with the quality of the questions — they were very, very good.
    You blew it by making close to 100 percent of them pretty negative toward Fish, and then a statement comes out.
    Oh well.

  39. SF Saints Fan says: Jan 21, 2009 1:14 AM

    Great questions Florio! Looks like a deposition outline. Been there done that.
    You should have realized that ESPN would not allow Fish to go forward with the “interview” once they looked at your questions. There is a major drop off in intellectual capacity from lawyers to reporters in general and an even greater drop off down to the level of ESPN sports reporter.
    I watch ESPN and enjoy their website and some of their shows, but it is an entertainment venue, not a news outlet. Their reporters are for the most part nothing more than commentators who sometimes ask a few people questions and “report” their answers.
    ESPN lost a huge amount of credibility with me when the canceled Playmakers. They caved to the NFL and have been getting shafted by the league ever since.
    Florio, one thing you can do is try to dig down into the story and get answers to some of your questions from the “sources” themselves or ask league or team officials what they think about the story on an off the record basis. If you put enough heat on ESPN they may come clean, but it will not happen until after the Super Bowl.
    Have fun working (sic) in Tampa next week. It will be a whole lot warmer than West Virginia.

  40. brian_21 says: Jan 21, 2009 2:22 AM

    Da Oracle, any great blogger pretty much needs to provide links. It was a requirement to provide a minimum of one link per blog entry for the journalism class I took.
    Also, you are right on one thing, Da Oracle. If Florio stopped providing links, there would most likely be much, much less traffic on PFT — the same for any blog.
    So, why in the hell would he stop providing links? That would not even be an option. Probably over 90 percent of bloggers provide links, but most are not read at a high enough frequency to live off of. (Florio, not that you would, but is enough made from advertisements where you can live off of this blog and not be a lawyer?) So, give credit where credit is due.
    Then, tear the person down (that would be Florio) like I did in my above post because Florio should have just made it an overall easier interview (it looks intimidating in an email form when the boatload of loaded and negative questions are thrown toward an individual) except for a few key, crucial points. Cause you got nuthin from that Fish/ESPN agreement to an interview!

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