CROSSFIT INC. BATTLES: A TIMELINE

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ByCrossFitJanuary 3, 2019

CrossFit’s bold positions on health and fitness have brought us into conflict with the entrenched interests of the fitness, nutrition, and food and beverage industries. These entities include the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as their partners at The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo/Gatorade, The Kellen Company, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

They have launched and funded numerous efforts to restrain and regulate CrossFit Affiliates. They have engaged in repeated scientific misconduct and fraud, lobbied for legislation that would criminalize the daily practices of CrossFit Affiliates and trainers, and covered up the corporate partnerships that fund their work, at times in contravention of federal law.

CrossFit has successfully fought back, calling out their corruption of the sports, health, and nutrition sciences, suing them for their lies and misconduct, informing policymakers of their schemes, and advocating against their proposed legislation. While our adversaries’ agenda is covert, our mission in these CrossFit Battles could not be clearer: to keep fitness legal.

Here, those battles are laid out in the context of CrossFit’s exponential growth to provide a deeper understanding of the past, present and future.

May 2005
CrossFit Inc. is first to disclose that inappropriate use of intensity can lead to catastrophic physical trauma known as rhabdomyolysis, introduces Uncle Rhabdo.

Oct. 1, 2005
CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman repeats rhabdo warning for 2nd consecutive month in CrossFit Journal, says exertional rhabdo can “disable, maim and even kill.”

Dec. 27, 2005
Greg Glassman notes ACSM Fellow Francis O’Connor’s casual remarks on rampant hyponatremia, injury and death in marathons: “Were CrossFit to present the same risk factor as the marathon, we’d be burying people every SINGLE week.”

2007
ACSM launches Exercise Is Medicine scheme. Founding partner: The Coca-Cola Co.

July 12, 2008
ACSM spokeswoman and University of Massachusetts kinesiology professor Priscilla Clarkson supports lawsuit against CrossFit affiliate, claims CrossFit can result in rhabdo.

2009
ACSM increases lobbying budget 250%.

2010
ACSM reveals its vested interest in personal-trainer licensure at the state level.

Sept. 13-14, 2010
Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) hosts workshop for military doctors, fitness-industry professionals to talk about high-intensity training; e.g., CrossFit.

July 2011
ACSM publishes report on rhabdo incidents in University of Iowa football program. Author cites a CrossFit Journal article on rhabdo, says team can learn from CrossFit.

November 2011
CHAMP publishes consensus paper circulated throughout Pentagon. CrossFit Chief Scientist Jeff Glassman calls it ”unscientific, manufactured hit piece.”

April 2012
Greg Glassman, other CrossFit representatives have tense meeting with CHAMP consensus paper authors. Glassman vows to reveal truth of their malicious intentions.

Sept. 8, 2012
CrossFit Journal publishes Jeff Glassman’s line-by-line critique of CHAMP paper.

Sept. 9, 2012
Under alias “Sports Doc,” CHAMP paper author Francis O’Connor comments on Jeff Glassman’s critique to say paper’s intent was never to be “evidence based document.”

Sept. 20, 2012
Jeff Glassman dismantles O’Connor’s remarks via now-famous Comment No. 44.

February 2013
NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) publishes ahead of print fraudulent study on CrossFit that includes falsified injury data.

Feb. 28, 2013
Washington, D.C., City Council introduces personal-trainer licensure. Nine states do the same. ACSM, NSCA and ACE—under moniker CREPS—lobby for the regulation.

April 23, 2013
CrossFit representative contacts Steven Devor to note inaccuracies with the JSCR study that claims 16% of participants dropped out because of “overuse or injury.”

May 23, 2013
CrossFit representative emails NSCA to note falsities in Devor study that was done in partnership with CrossFit 614. NSCA does not respond.

October 2013
CrossFit representative calls JSCR editor and CHAMP paper author William Kraemer to explain errors in Devor study. Kraemer says peer review is “good enough.”

November 2013
JSCR publishes sham Devor study. Outside Magazine, Military Times among media organizations that point to study as evidence CrossFit is dangerous.

Feb. 10, 2014
ESPN publishes “CrossFit Debate Not Going Away.” It questions methodology’s safety, citing Kevin Ogar’s paralysis at non-CrossFit event.

Feb. 14, 2014
Washington, D.C., City Council passes personal-trainer licensure legislation.

Feb. 19, 2014
Greg Glassman spotlights corruption in exercise science, calls for action: “It’s time to drive Big Soda out of fitness and by extension, the health sciences.”

March 26, 2014
CrossFit 614 owner Mitch Potterf sues Devor study authors and publisher for fraud, misrepresentation, false light invasion of privacy, defamation.

May 12, 2014
CrossFit sues NSCA for false advertising, unfair competition, declaratory relief.

July 27, 2014
ESPN says CrossFit is dangerous, then tries to bolster claim via interview with CrossFit critic Mark Rippetoe, who cannot accurately define CrossFit’s methodology and intent.

Aug. 6, 2014
Greg Glassman on personal-trainer licensure: “A hail mary effort to achieve exactly what can no longer be achieved in the marketplace—keep the truth about diet and exercise hidden.”

August 2014
ACSM/PepsiCo-owned Gatorade advice to drink as much as tolerable kills 2 high-school football players. They are among more than 12 who die of hyponatremia.

December 2014
JSCR publishes study relating “recent emergence of intensive training protocols” to increased rhabdo cases without a shred of evidence.

Feb. 20, 2015
CrossFit hosts hyponatremia conference; 16 top scientists bust long-standing hydration lies.

Feb. 24, 2015
Potterf sues Ohio State University, Devor for academic misconduct.

Spring 2015
CrossFit campaign forces Gatorade to revise hydration guidelines: Drink when you’re thirsty, don’t when you’re not. ACSM later clarifies guidelines, downplays hyponatremia.

June 29, 2015
Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine publishes consensus paper from 16 top scientists who busted hydration myths at CrossFit’s hyponatremia conference.

July 17, 2015
Greg Glassman unearths more Big Soda corruption of health sciences, points to Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN)—a collaboration between Coca-Cola and ACSM.

Aug. 9, 2015
The New York Times publishes “Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets.”

Aug. 14, 2015
The New York Times Editorial Board notes GEBN is “latest effort to put a ‘science based’ gloss on industry positions.”

Oct. 29, 2015
JSCR issues nonsensical erratum on Devor study; says injury rate should not be considered factor, change “does not affect the overall conclusion of the article.”

Nov. 8-19, 2015
Greg Glassman rallies 9 California affiliates to support state warning label on sugary drinks that would expose Big Soda corruption, including licensure lobbying.

Mid-November 2015
After mounting pressure from CrossFit and affiliates, Washington, D.C., City Council scraps personal-trainer licensure.

Nov. 30, 2015
GEBN abruptly announces immediate end to operations.

May 2, 2016
NSCA sues CrossFit, Founder Greg Glassman and two employees, alleging trade libel, defamation, use of unfair business practices.

Sept. 21, 2016
Federal judge rules CrossFit can proceed to trial with NSCA lawsuit.

Oct. 18, 2016
Ohio Court of Claims judge signs settlement between Ohio State University and Potterf, awarding him $145,000.

May 26, 2017
Federal judge imposes sanctions on NSCA—including forensic analysis of its servers—after it provides documents in California case it withheld in federal suit.

July 31, 2017
JSCR retracts Devor study, relenting after federal judge rules the injury data was false.

Jan. 18, 2018
In unprecedented ruling, state judge forces NSCA to reveal to CrossFit names of Devor study’s peer reviewers.

May 17, 2018
State court awards CrossFit attorneys’ fees, expenses based on NSCA misconduct. It also orders NSCA to pay for forensic analysis of its servers.

June 14, 2018
In yet another blow to the NSCA, its insurer, National Casualty Co., sues to dodge coverage in both suits.

Oct. 4, 2018
CrossFit sues U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over donations CDC, NIH foundations receive.

Nov. 29, 2018
NSCA asks court to dismiss its defamation suit against CrossFit, calling it a “business decision” and citing “unusual and extraordinary” expenses related to court sanctions.

Comments on CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

23 Comments

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Peter Shaw
October 23rd, 2019 at 12:15 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

Thank you CrossFit for leading the fight!

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Matthieu Dubreucq
October 19th, 2019 at 1:26 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

CrossFit leading the charge!

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Katina Thornton
August 26th, 2019 at 6:59 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

Greg Glassman's relentless pursuit of the truth deserves the utmost respect. Dr. Jeff Glassman raised him well.

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John Smith
January 31st, 2019 at 4:12 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

Coach, looking forward to the year you and Sevan come up with a Superbowl ad that totally crushes Coke and Pepsi

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Bryan Stoneking
January 5th, 2019 at 10:18 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

I'm proud to be a small part of the CrossFit affiliate family. This stuff is awesome, and thank God for Coach Glassman and everyone at HQ for the job they're doing on behalf of the human race.

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Pat Sherwood
January 4th, 2019 at 5:56 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

CrossFit is passionate about many things, but high on that list is telling the truth even when it is difficult, unpopular, and/or upsetting. We want to tell the truth about what gets you fit, what maintains your health (fitness over the span of your life), how you should eat, science, studies, etc, etc. Not all organizations share our love of the truth, as evidenced by this battles timeline. We will continue to fight as needed because few things are more worthy than the truth.

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Paul Kane
January 4th, 2019 at 5:12 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

CrossFit may be the only organisation to spend their own money challenging an unethical practise by a multinational business. This issue needs more media coverage so people can see for themselves how Coca-Cola has been buying their health for so long.

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Nikki Warnek
January 4th, 2019 at 3:17 pm
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

This page is... amazing. I've been generally aware of these battles, but seeing them laid out in one place is really enlightening. CrossFit is a true advocate for health and fitness (and may be the only organization that can say that). I'm honored to be affiliated with CrossFit.

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Brant Hubbard
January 4th, 2019 at 4:43 am
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

I find it interesting the critiques I see leveled by CrossFit at others it can also frequently be found guilty of. I have been following CrossFit style training for a number of years but often when I read some of these pieces, it is truly dizzying they can't see their own confirmation bias. Thoroughly enjoy my training but ridiculously easy to see why many people refer to it as a "cult".

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Ansel Carington
January 4th, 2019 at 5:50 am

It's comical, really. In this snippet alone, the first in what I imagine will be a series of pseudo-intellectual pats on the back, they bizarrely plot affiliate growth against their "battles", implying their domestic skirmishes are somehow translating to (almost exclusively international) expansion? Isn't this exactly the type of BS correlation used in the health sciences that CrossFit so loudly bemoans? Also, your growth is no longer "exponential", it's plateauing... and will quickly enter the trough stage if the offensive tone of this unpolished new website is any indication.

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Lynne Pitts
January 4th, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Please provide some examples for your critique; random insults are not going to stand, but reasoned discussion with solid content will. Thanks!

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joshua webster
January 4th, 2019 at 6:03 pm

I'll tell you what no one finds your interesting...your comment. Your critique is worthless unless you provide specific examples.

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Ansel Carington
January 4th, 2019 at 6:37 pm

Well, my comment was deleted so I'll chime in here with a specific example - literally days after criticizing Ancel Keys for cherry-picking data origins to confirm biases, the "Battles" team is implying that there is a relationship between CrossFit's domestic skirmishes and affiliate growth. By the numbers, growth is almost exclusively international at this point and as far as I know, CrossFit isn't working to uncover health sciences corruption within those growth markets. This timeline seems specifically designed to create a data relationship where none exists... not a great look given the scrutiny applied elsewhere throughout the CrossFit's website.

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Olivia Leonard
January 4th, 2019 at 7:32 pm

I’m not sure where you’re seeing a claim of a causal relationship between the two elements in this graphic, Ansel.


Actually, it would be impossible to imply in any scientific sense that the varied data points on the Battles timeline directly caused affiliate growth, because they represent a series of uncontrolled, dynamic events on the part of multiple actors. There’s no testable proposition. This isn’t a scientific claim like the one that Keys made, for example.


There’s no claim made of business success as a direct result of the Battles (though you could argue that CrossFit’s willingness to tell the truth and resist attempts to infringe upon affiliates’ ability to make their clients healthy is good for the brand, not only in immediately quantifiable ways but in terms of qualitative benefits like reputation, integrity, etc. - that’s just not what the timeline claims).


As noted in the introduction, the affiliate growth seems to be provided for historical context, which would make sense when used in a linear depiction of time. There are plenty of questions we could ask while considering the timeline, like: did CrossFit’s successful disruption of the fitness space (even looking at the growth rate in the five year period from 2008 - 2013) threaten its competitors to the point that they tried to restrict its growth via licensure and regulation? Did CrossFit’s willingness to speak out against toxic food and beverages draw fire from those industries? But those aren’t questions of science.

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Ansel Carington
January 4th, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Olivia. Infographics are by nature intended to be standalone data narratives, which is why the graphic itself is IMO problematic. By plotting growth against battles a relationship is implied, regardless of whether the supporting text caveats otherwise. Further complicating matters, it does seem that CFHQ is OK with cherry-picking information to support their views - on CrossFitHealth.com there is a section literally titled "Research that Confirms Our Bias". Credibility is hard earned in the sciences, and a willingness to "confirm bias" to push beliefs undermines otherwise noble aims.


Anyway, I am personally grateful for the work you all are doing here in the States! Let's not fall into the same traps as our adversaries, though.

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Brant Hubbard
January 4th, 2019 at 9:09 pm

The easiest example is a critique of scientific methods of others and their data analysis. The easiest example is during the open when they compare workouts from year to year and if the average score improves they conclude that it means everyone is getting more fit. Obviously this is data but without statistical analysis and normalization for variables (learned response, etc.) this cannot be stated. My other point was demonstrated easily by Joshua Webster. Thank you to Lynne Pitts for being civilized. I greatly enjoy CrossFit programming and training and believe it does provide value and benefit. However, to not acknowledge the data shortcomings in CrossFit is antagonistic to the whole idea of attacking your own weaknesses.

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Greg Glassman
January 4th, 2019 at 11:58 pm

You’re exactly right by plotting both affiliate growth and key moments in our battle we are not only implying a relationship but demonstrating it. You’d have to show that the events didn’t happen on those dates or that our count on affiliates was wrong. The relationship is a temporal one. Sorry, but it’s true. So you’re wrong in saying there is no relationship.


As to whether the battles create growth or the growth create the battles - that would be to examine a causal relationship between the two phenomena. I will never be found anywhere ever claiming that correlation proves causation. You don’t need to stay awake waiting for me to do that and you don’t have to pretend like we did when we didn’t. So you’re wrong on this point too!


And yet, I am claiming a causal relationship. If I tell you that the more affiliates we have the more revenue we have to defend affiliates, the brand, and the affiliates work can you begin to sense a causal relationship? With the coffers full we can redress tortious grievances where we couldn’t otherwise. You’d have to be really stupid to doubt the likelihood of that.


Ansel, respectfully, you’re in way over your head. You’ve confused selecting data to overstate a correlation and then using that overstated correlation as evidence of causation with someone putting a few dates on a timeline. That you’d have to go to such tortured logic in an attempt to disparage our efforts makes you, in my mind, a troll.


And, I have traveled the world speaking on chronic disease, the failures of postmodern science, the corruption of health by soda, and the exportation of deadly science and nutrition guidelines. China, Brazil, and South Africa late last year alone. Our friends include Fettke, Noakes, Dahquist, Gí¸etszche, Kendrick, Fung, Harcombe, and Ravnskov! I was invited and spoke at the Beijing Sports University last year on Chronic Disease and Scientific Corruption.


As for growth we are still growing in the US, but the market is maturing and slower for sure. Exactly as you’d expect. Each emerging market has grown in similar patterns and we are still the fast growing large chain on earth. We got to 15,000 business units in half the time that any other company has. (Source: Harvard Business School in my annual visit.)

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Greg Glassman
January 5th, 2019 at 12:25 am

Brant,


You can repeat the claim that CF has a methodological problem with data, but so far have alluded to one instance in our timeline, and then shifted to another I know nothing about. I do remember several people offering up Games data analysis but our science staff never weighed in publicly.


Our data analysis capability is world class. Our chief scientist has taught stochastics, probability theory, and mathematical modeling of complex physical phenomena at several universities and was chief scientist for Hughes Aircraft Company for decades. We know science and math as well or better than anyone else in the fitness and health space. Dr. Glassman has contributed to the mathematical analysis of work of several of our allied scientists. His analysis of heat injury data at our EAHE Conference presented original work demonstrating conclusively that heat isn't the cause of heat injury in athletes - a wonderful contribution.


It’s silly but all I can do is say you’re wrong and offer some credentials and background, but that’s it until you make a substantive claim. Understand that what you're doing is trolling.


We produced the first definition of fitness amenable to accurate and precise estimation, making ours the worlds first scientific definition of fitness. This made the scientific measurement of fitness possible. These are all prerequisites to developing a technology of advancing human performance. This was needed to collect meaningful data.


Finally, I'm sorry about the dizziness. I fully believe you.

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joshua webster
January 5th, 2019 at 12:26 am

Brant, I'll admit I was being overly curt. I was in the middle of a workout and between sets. Apologies. Tone aside, I think you are falling into the cognitive bias trap yourself. This tends to be a circular trap with each side claiming the other is unaware of their bias, but you must be aware of yours by now, you stated it so clearly. It is not ridiculously easy to see why Crossfit looks like a cult, unless you are prepared to be biased against Crossfit, or towards cults. Either way, lets just drop the hyperbole and limit examples to better areas. Your example is a little weak, but perhaps you know a better way in which Crossfit HQ supports cherry-picking or data skewing? I say it's weak because learned response can be a function of fitness. And if that supposition is true, then isn't everyone getting "fitter" if they are experiencing positive learned response? I'm not being absurd to say that this type of response is part of the benefits-package that we have signed up for by participating in Crossfit. If I am being absurd (and I'm sure Greg will tell me if I am...) then I apologize. I can tell you're in the community, so am I, no need for me to engage in friendly-fire. Cheers.

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Rory Mckernan
January 5th, 2019 at 1:29 am

Ansel,


RE: “Further complicating matters, it does seem that CFHQ is OK with cherry-picking information to support their views - on CrossFitHealth.com there is a section literally titled ‘Research that Confirms Our Bias’."


The battles you see on this timeline came as a response to Coca Cola’s intrusion into the health sciences and their direct support of organizations who have attacked the CrossFit brand, threatening our affiliates and our community.


In this forum most of us agree on the wave tops (carbs bad and sedentarism is bad, for example). Sadly, however, what we know as fact runs counter to popular opinion with both the general population and in many cases, the medical community. Greg has created a forum in which we can combat the rise of global chronic disease rates through education of where and how we went wrong. The following is directly from the CrossFit Health site charter:


“The inexorable rise of chronic disease, which is taking 70 percent of lives needlessly and prematurely, has two root causes: excess carbohydrate consumption and sedentarism. From the onset of this epidemic, official response from our universities, government institutes of health, and our very own doctors was to promote a high-carb, low-fat, margarine-greased descent into ever-worsening disease and death. Little has changed in decades beyond worsening global health and CrossFit’s ascendancy.”


The curriculum is focused on what constitutes good science (see yesterday’s article by Jeff Glassman) how research can be misleading (You mentioned Ancel Keys in your comment) and the nefarious role that corporations often play in misleading the public (yesterday’s article from People). Being counter cultural doesn’t in and of itself absolve us of confirmation bias, but the presentation of material in my opinion, has proved that we are dedicated to scientific truth.


RE: Credibility is hard earned in the sciences, and a willingness to "confirm bias" to push beliefs undermines otherwise noble aims


I think that few people know how difficult credibility comes about as well as Greg Glassman.


Consider that 30 years that are not shown on this timeline. Greg created a definition of fitness that was held up by measurable, observable and repeatable data. His approach was unique specifically for it’s potential for scientific evaluation (distance, time, load, velocity, work and power related to movements, skills and drills aka performance data).


It was unpopular to say the least and Greg was kicked out of countless gyms in his attempts to bring real fitness to light. It was hard to market (“hey try this workout… it’s really hard and it’ll make you throw up”) and it ran against the grain. What set it apart was the foundations based in science and the results it provided.


Re: “Let’s not fall into the same traps as our adversaries, though.”


I respect your sentiment. However, if history is any indication of the future I see no danger of that. Greg has a history of doing the right things, for the right people, for the right reasons all the while avoiding the temptations of the bright, shiny objects that were placed in front of him. CrossFit has remained a family business and stayed true to it’s charter and fought battles that exposed widespread corruption.

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Brant Hubbard
January 5th, 2019 at 4:13 am

Wow, didn't expect this to spurn so much discussion and bring in the big guns. Thoroughly enjoy that it did though.


First off to Joshua Webster, thank you for the apology, as you said we are both part of the community and can remain civil. I will say that most formal definitions of cult have negative connotation, so being bias to it is natural I think. Similar to being biased against the Nazis. I also said refer to as a "cult", with the obligatory quotations. Basically I was stating why people can get the proverbial bad taste in their mouth. On your second point about learning response, I listed that as one factor to include in the analysis, there are numerous others. In regards to do I think it is part of fitness that is an interesting question and would have to do more research on it. However, what I will state is that in most formalized testing scenarios this is something that is accounted for. More importantly the proper analysis has not been done or at least not made public for the claims that are being made. Which as I stated is the crux of my argument.


In response to Greg Glassman, thank you for commenting, I was surprised and it was interesting to read your response. Trolling means I had to have intent to illicit an upset or angry response, and that was never my intent. I fail to see how listing a CV helps this discussion. I could list mine as well but don't think it would further anything. I also never questioned ability to do the analysis. It would only take time and money, and in my opinion should be done. I stated that people directly affiliated with CrossFit (i.e. - open and games announcers) have made numerous claims without providing data to support it. This is not an isolated incident so my statement is not singular as everyone implied.


As I have stated several times, I frequently follow CrossFit programming along with my own. I have met and continue to meet great people in it. However, to not hold ourselves to the same bar we expect everyone else to (and lash out aggressively when they do not) seems counterproductive. Thank you everyone for commenting, I have learned a great deal. Overall, I would say it solidified my thesis but has definitely made my think deeper on it and I will continue to research.

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Sean Rockett
January 4th, 2019 at 2:13 am
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

Love reading the early debates from Dr. Glassman. Respect from Dr. Rockett to Dr. Rocket

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Jeff Johnson
January 4th, 2019 at 2:04 am
Commented on: CrossFit Battles: A Timeline

I frickin love reading about this fight. Take the moral high ground and dig in. There is nothing more gratifying.

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