A study that warned of the perils of using face masks as a precaution against contracting Covid-19 appears slated for retraction, Retraction Watch has learned. The 2020 paper, “Facemasks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis,” was written by Baruch Vainshelboim, who listed his affiliation as Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto Health System.
But the study gained wide circulation earlier this month, thanks in part to some conservative politicians, and became the subject of fact-checks by the Associated Press and Snopes, which pointed out that the paper was published by an exercise physiologist with no academic connection to Stanford University or the NIH in a journal that accepts “radical, speculative and non-mainstream scientific ideas.
Stanford has disavowed both Vainshelboim and the paper.
Snopes, the fact-checking site, cited the study as false and misleading: “The paper was published by an exercise physiologist with no academic connection to Stanford University or the NIH in a journal that accepts ‘radical, speculative and non-mainstream scientific ideas.'”
Vainshelboim is not a medical doctor but reportedly holds a PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Porto in 2014.
The paper got renewed traction this month after the far-right leaning fake-news site, The Gateway Pundit, which has been banned from Twitter for repeatedly posting misinformation.
The coaching staff of Stanford Swim issued a statement refuting DeVine’s claims and added that the athlete wasn’t being allowed to train with the team “for reasons entirely unrelated to his sexuality.”
I remember reading the story and at the time both the ‘surface reasons’ and the ‘reasons entirely unrelated’ comments stuck out as intentionally vague.
The Stanford Daily is now reporting DeVine’s “expulsion came after he drank at a Team USA swim meet instead of showing up to support his teammates who were competing, a violation of the National Team’s Honor Code.”
The Daily also makes a point to clarify that DeVine wasn’t kicked off the swim team but was “barred from the University’s pro-training group after finishing his collegiate career.”
DeVine told the Daily that while he stands by his Instagram post, he feels people focused on just one aspect of the essay and not his main point.
“I think that I wrote this entire Instagram post where every sentence is very important, but the only one that people are really focusing on is me calling out Stanford, and that makes my message sound very aggressive and that I’m out for blood, when in reality that is not what I wanted at all,” DeVine said. “I’m here to just say this is a systemic issue.”
DeVine says his message was meant to highlight what he feels is a homophobic environment on the Stanford team and to “call out” the homophobia he says he experienced.
During his time on the Stanford swim team, DeVine recalls coaches attempting to motivate swimmers by appealing to “masculine stereotypes,” and when he tried to explain why he felt excluded from the team as a gay athlete, the coaching staff would “get defensive and unwilling to listen to him.”
At the time, he told the magazine he felt his teammates and coaches “received the news warmly” and expressed regret that he had struggled with deciding to come out to them.
“I remember that being a pretty emotional time, and just feeling my whole team wrap around me and feeling that love in a place where I hadn’t really felt it, that was definitely pretty special for me,” DeVine said. “Just seeing them kind of prove me wrong was definitely special, something I’ll never forget.”