Both papers were retracted on June 26 by the editors of the International Journal of Exercise Science (IJES) with the agreement of last author Steven Devor, a former professor at The Ohio State University. Both have been retracted because the studies were carried out without proper IRB approval.
Earlier in June, another paper from the CrossFit study — which is still at the center of a legal battle between CrossFit and a competitor in the market for exercise instructor licensing — was retracted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) for improper IRB approval. Devor resigned from OSU the day after the first retraction.
Only one of the newly retracted papers had anything to do with the CrossFit study: Published in April 2014, this paper suggested that the so-called “paleo” diet — a diet focused on meat and vegetables — is associated with “unfavorable” changes in cholesterols and other blood-based cardiovascular biomarkers. In addition to following the diet, subjects also participated in a CrossFit exercise program.
The other was a case study of the effects of running a marathon and had no connection to CrossFit. But, like the two CrossFit papers, its first author was Devor’s frequent collaborator Michael Smith, now at California State University-Chico.
Both IJES retraction notices replaced the original papers and simply read:
Manuscript has been retracted.
The Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines for retraction notices recommend leaving the originals and creating separate notices, though we were able to find a pdf copy of the Paleo diet paper through the Internet Archive. Co-Editor-in-Chief Scott Lyons, of Western Kentucky University told us this was the journal’s first time retracting a paper:
We thought that was appropriate. Retraction, by definition, means to withdraw, so we thought removing them was the right thing to do. Putting up a notice that these papers have been retracted, yet leaving the papers posted for everyone to see, seems like “piling on” to the authors when that is not necessary. I think they have been punished enough.
COPE also recommends that notices include information on who retracted the papers and the reasons for doing so. Lyons said “time was the primary factor” for making the decision to post the brief notices:
More detail might be added if we think it is necessary…and we will certainly review the best practices.
IJES has not yet been indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
The JSCR CrossFit paper, which contained false injury statistics, has provoked several lawsuits. Readers may recall that Mitch Potterf, owner of the Columbus, Ohio gym where Devor conducted the study, settled a lawsuit with OSU in October 2016 and that CrossFit headquarters is involved in ongoing state- and federal-level suits with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which publishes JSCR.
In response to our story on the JSCR retraction, commenter Yuri Feito (astutely) pointed out that “Unrestricted Paleolithic Diet is Associated with Unfavorable Changes to Blood Lipids in Healthy Subjects” might not have the proper IRB approval, too.
Retraction Watch contacted the editors of IJES on June 19, which prompted the journal to initiate the retraction process, Lyons told us:
That email is what triggered us to start to talk about this.
Lyons told Retraction Watch that he first discussed retracting the paper with the journal’s executive committee, but then contacted Devor directly:
We talked about the whole situation and that [retraction] was going to be best for all parties. He understood completely and didn’t have any issue at all with us retracting those papers. After discussion with him and the executive committee, it was a pretty easy decision.
Lyons said that Devor explained the problems with the papers in a letter. Lyons declined to share the full letter, but told Retraction Watch that Devor wrote:
The above referenced studies were not conducted under an OSU IRB protocol that was specifically approved for each individual study.
The second paper, originally published in July 2013, was titled “Endothelial Response of Running a Marathon: A Tale of Three Runners.”
Lyons added that he had served on Western Kentucky’s IRB, which he believed gave him insight as to how the study ran afoul:
I do see how it could have happened. I don’t think it was intended to be malicious, they merely collected data under a different IRB protocol that had already been approved, but not specifically approved for these two studies.
Technically, that is a violation.
Hat tip: Russell Greene
Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.