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A Nigerian American pathologist portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 film, “Concussion,” Bennet Omalu M.D. is partly responsible for the most important sports story of the 21st century. He triggered thousands of claims against the NFL that have settled for around $1 billion, and hundreds of workers’ compensation claims filed, and now for the most part settled, in California.

Since 2005, when Omalu first reported finding widespread brain damage in a former NFL player, concerns about CTE have inspired a global revolution in concussion safety and fueled an ongoing existential crisis for America’s most popular sport. Omalu’s discovery – initially ignored and then attacked by NFL-allied doctors – inspired an avalanche of scientific research that forced the league to acknowledge a link between football and brain disease.

Nearly 15 years later, Omalu has withdrawn from the CTE research community and remade himself as an evangelist, traveling the world selling his frightening version of what scientists know about CTE and contact sports. In paid speaking engagements, expert witness testimony and in several books he has authored, Omalu portrays CTE as an epidemic and himself as a crusader, fighting against not just the NFL but also the medical science community, which he claims is too corrupted to acknowledge clear-cut evidence that contact sports destroy lives.

And since his discovery, Omalu told Sports Illustrated, researchers have uncovered evidence that shows adolescents who participate in football, hockey, wrestling and mixed martial arts are more likely to drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, struggle with mental illness, commit violent crimes and kill themselves.

But a new report from the Washington Post – “From scientist to Salesman How Bennet Omalu, Doctor of ‘Concussion’ Fame, Built a Career on Distorted Science” tells the other side of his story.

After more than a decade of intensive research by scientists from around the globe, the state of scientific knowledge of CTE remains one of uncertainty. Among CTE experts, many important aspects of the disease – from what symptoms it causes, to how prevalent or rare it is – remain the subject of research and debate.

But across the brain science community, there is wide consensus on one thing: Omalu, the man considered by many the public face of CTE research, routinely exaggerates his accomplishments and dramatically overstates the known risks of CTE and contact sports, fueling misconceptions about the disease, according to interviews with more than 50 experts in neurodegenerative disease and brain injuries, and a review of more than 100 papers from peer-reviewed medical journals.

Omalu did not discover CTE, nor did he name the disease. The alarming statistics he recites about contact sports are distorted, according to the author of the studies that produced those figures. And while Omalu cultivates a reputation as the global authority on CTE, it’s unclear whether he is diagnosing it correctly, according to several experts on the disease.

Omalu’s definition for CTE, as described in his published papers, is incredibly broad and all-encompassing, describing characteristics that can be found in normal, healthy brains, as well as in other diseases, according to experts including Ann McKee, lead neuropathologist for Boston University’s CTE Center. “His criteria don’t make sense to me,” McKee said. “I don’t know what he’s doing.”

McKee’s assessment was supported by three neuropathologists who worked with her to develop guidelines for diagnosing CTE used by researchers around the world.

McKee and other experts confirmed, in interviews, something that long has been an open secret in the CTE research community: Omalu’s paper on Mike Webster – the former Pittsburgh Steelers great who was the first NFL player discovered to have CTE – does not depict or describe the disease as the medical science community defines it. McKee and other experts believe Webster had CTE, based on his history of head trauma and his mental disorders. But the paper Omalu published shows images that are not CTE and could have come from the brain of a healthy 50-year-old man, they said.

“This is the problem,” McKee said. “People lump me with him, and they lump my work with him, and my work is nothing like this.” “My God, if people were actually following these [Omalu’s] criteria, the prevalence of this disease would be enormous, and there’s absolutely no evidence to support that.”

Omalu declined several requests for an interview and refused to answer any questions for this story. In an email, he dismissed questions raised by experts as coming from “a minority of doctors who are seeking very cheap and bogus popularity . . . who work directly or indirectly with these sports organizations.” “Your paper engaging in such bogus controversies will bolster some people’s allegations of ‘Fake News,’ ” Omalu wrote.

This is typically how Omalu responds to criticism: by claiming it comes from scientists corrupted by relationships with sports leagues. But his depiction of the science of CTE and his prominence in the CTE research community have yielded his own financial benefits.

Billing himself as the man who discovered CTE, Omalu has built a lucrative business as an expert witness for hire in lawsuits – including in the growing CTE-related litigation field – charging a minimum of $10,000 per case, according to his testimony. He also maintains a busy schedule of paid speaking engagements, charging $27,500 per appearance, records show, as he delivers his sermon against contact sports.