You may have heard about the recent CrossFit and National Strength and Conditioning Lawsuit. If not, here's the most basic wrap-up I can give you:

  1. The NSCA claims to be a leader in strength and athletic training. The NSCA was founded in 1978. CrossFit was founded in 2000.
  2. The NSCA owns the JCSR, a research publication that published a study on CrossFit in 2013. This particular study reported that CrossFit is effective in improving performance and body composition, but due to “injury and overuse” (16% or 9 out of 56 participants failed to complete the study due to these allegedly reported conditions), the risk to benefit ratio may not be in favor of athletes that choose to do CrossFit. [These are the study's claims, not necessarily the NSCA's and certainly not ours].
  3. CrossFit claims that the findings were fabricated and that there is no factual accuracy to the reports of “injury and overuse.” They contacted the NSCA, who did not change the publication or information contained therein.

CrossFit is now suing the NSCA for two counts of false advertising, one count of unfair competition, and declaratory relief. They demand a jury trial. This lawsuit first made waves on the internet back in May. Since then, we have been unable to find much development on the story. There is a very well-known CrossFit-related blog that regularly trash the NSCA, and the NSCA did release a statement:

The NSCA has denied CrossFit’s claims and is vigorously defending itself in the court of law. Although CrossFit chose the legal system to address the claims it made in the legal action, CrossFit continues to take to the Internet via blogs, message boards, articles, and social media outlets to maliciously attack the NSCA.

CrossFit’s ongoing commentaries contain inaccurate information, misquotes, and false statements that seek to disparage, discredit, and defame NSCA. They assert that NSCA manipulates research and produces “junk science” to create the perception that CrossFit is dangerous. CrossFit says NSCA views it as a threat to the NSCA’s revenue. These charges are patently untrue.

CrossFit is a self-proclaimed $100 million for-profit company attacking the NSCA, an educational non-profit, whose mission is to support and disseminate research-based knowledge and its practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness. For more than 35 years NSCA has been driven by its mission in order to serve its members, certificants, and ultimately the public. 

Outside of these dead-end leads, we're all in the dark. It's anyone's best guess how the ordeal will end. Earlier this week, Anthony Roberts threw his own hat into the ring in a sharp blog post he confidently titled "When Bad Science Goes Unchecked."

In the post, Roberts pulls no punches while sharing his position on the NSCA and CrossFit:

In 2013, we find the the NSCA again refusing to amend their work, when they published an article that claimed to quantify CrossFit-sustained injuries. In short order the NSCA found themselves being sued by CrossFit. The facts not in dispute are that the NSCA is both a body that certifies trainers in addition to being the owner of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Hence, when they publish articles about a competing body that certifies trainers with a different curriculum, the situation is analagous to Ford hypothetically owning The Journal of Automotive Research (itself a problem), and publishing an article stating lots of people have been hurt driving a Chevy. It’s more egregious when, as in the case with the NSCA, the study’s authors claimed nine participants were injured, and CrossFit provides conflicting data that proves those people were not injured (which culminated in sworn affidavits from all nine). If you’re a scientist and you find out that your data is faulty, it’s your duty to correct it.


If we were to further scrutinize the NSCA, we’d observe few checks and balances in place that would ensure their researchers are producing valid work. When their authors are publicly outed for conflicts of interest and/or ignoring the basic rules of conducting a study, nobody bats an eye. In fact, they’re rewarded for their misdeeds.

Consider the 2011 case of professor Chad Kerksick, who was accused ofquestionable practices, like making side-deals with supplement companies to earn money from studies conducted on their products at the University of Oklahoma: a confidential settlement was reached between him and the University, wherby all of his ongoing studies were cancelled, he was given a final payment, was relieved of all university duties, removed from his tenure track position, and can never seek employment or student enrollment with any school under their auspices.

After these events, did the NSCA audit his prior work?


Did the Journal of International Sports Nutrition (an organization heavily cross-pollinated with the NSCA) audit his prior work?


Instead the NSCA made him their treasurer.


In 2001, a study was commissioned by a company on their (already very popular fat-burner). The study found that it didn’t actually burn fat (in a statistically relevant manner), and was found to cause severe adverse side effects in some users. In this case, prior to publication, the company asked for — and received — a new data set that omitted the subjects who had dropped out of the study for safety concerns. Again, that researcher is still carrying on a robust career in the field, authoring new studies for various supplement companies — while Jeffrey Armstrong, who refused to alter his data, is not.

We cannot verify Robert's claims, nor do we have interest in taking part in the CrossFit and NSCA discussion. The integrity of the strength and conditioning industry—as well as the studies that encourage or contradict certain methods—should be a prioritized concern for anyone who relies on this kind of knowledge to build their careers. If (and that's a big if) Roberts or CrossFit has sufficient evidence that there there has been outright manipulation of research (from the NSCA or other parties), it will drastically alter the landscape of strength and conditioning as it has been for years.