Attorneys for seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong have demanded that “60 Minutes” issue an on-air apology to Armstrong and admit it erred in a May 22 broadcast report in which cyclist Tyler Hamilton said Armstrong told him he flunked a drug test and covered it up in 2001.
In a May 31 letter to CBS News Chairman Jeffrey Fager that Armstrong’s publicist released to members of the media, attorneys John W. Keker and Elliot R. Peters accused the news outlet of reporting a “demonstrable falsehood that you recklessly presented, and then bolstered with other untrue assertions and facts taken out of context.” Fager was not immediately available to comment.
Fager responded with a statement that read, in part: “ ‘60 Minutes’ stands by its story as truthful, accurate and fair. Lance Armstrong and his lawyers were given numerous opportunities to respond to every detail of our reporting for weeks prior to the broadcast and their written responses were fairly and accurately included in the story.”
In the report, Hamilton told correspondent Scott Pelley that Armstrong had told him he tested positive for the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO) at the 2001 Tour de Suisse and that “people took care of it” and “figured out a way for it to go away.”
Five days after the report aired, Martial Saugy, the Swiss lab director at the center of the case, said there had been no positive test, no cover-up and no inappropriate handling of results that he was aware of. Saugy said four samples from the race had been deemed “suspicious” but were not positive and, at the time of the testing, he did not know whether any came from Armstrong.
The program also reported that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was investigating a meeting between Armstrong and the director of the Swiss anti-doping lab that investigated the samples, and noted that Armstrong had made payments of $125,000 to the International Cycling Union after 2002.
Saugy, who was interviewed by the FBI and FDA last September, said he met with Armstrong and his team manager, Johan Bruyneel, and discussed the new test for EPO, but that the meeting occurred a year after the race and featured a presentation he had given elsewhere to provide transparency because the test had been controversial since it was introduced the year previously. He said there was no discussion of any of Armstrong’s results.
Hamilton, who tested positive for banned drugs twice during his career, also said he saw Armstrong use drugs and received drugs from Armstrong.