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Pujols has tough road ahead in legal action against Clark

Albert Pujols is going to go to court to take down Jack Clark and the steroid accusations.

The problem is that the legal route will be a difficult one to win, and the court of public opinion will likely be unswayed without that win.

The Angels' injured slugger found himself in the crosshairs of a PED accusation on Friday when Clark, a former first baseman and hitting coach, accused him of using steroids during his new job as a sports talk host for a St. Louis area radio station.

In the time since Clark's statements went national, both Pujols and his former trainer Chris Mihlfeld have denied that Pujols has ever used illegal drugs during his major league career. Pujols took that a step further by announcing a defamation lawsuit against Clark and the station, WGNU.

"I am currently in the process of taking legal action against Jack Clark and his employers at WGNU 920AM," Pujols said in a statement. "I am going to send a message that you cannot act in a reckless manner, like they have, and get away with it.

"If I have to be the athlete to carry the torch and pave the way for other innocent players to see that you can do something about it, I am proud to be that person."

However, Pujols will find himself in a very difficult situation in court because of who he is.

Thanks to the 1964 Supreme Court decision Times v. Sullivan, a plaintiff in a libel or slander case that is a public official or public figure must prove that the defendant, in this case Clark, acted with reckless disregard when he made the accusations and that the accusations were indeed false.

Clark, however, is not immune from legal action just because of his position as a talk show host. Under the 1990 Supreme Court case Milkovich v. Lorain Journal, a libelous or slanderous statement of a public figure isn't protected under the First Amendment just because it is an opinion.

In the case of Clark, he would need to establish that his statement is true to get a blanket dismissal, while Pujols would need to actually win the lawsuit outright in order to be cleared even in the court of public opinion, and even that may not be enough.

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