In 1964, the United States Supreme Court decided a case called New York Times v. Sullivan. It established, in libel law matters, what is called the “actual malice” standard.
Before you start rolling your eyes and getting anxious about a bunch of legalese, relax. This is not complicated. Libel, at its core, involves a published statement that damages someone’s reputation. What the Supreme Court said is this: if you publish something about a public official or a public figure, it is “actual malice” if you do so knowing it is false or if you acted in what the court called a reckless disregard for the truth.
This brings us to the American sprinter Justin Gatlin, and the report published Monday in the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. There is zero question Gatlin is a public figure. Can there be any question the lengthy story the Telegraph printed was aimed directly at Gatlin, and his reputation?