CBS News chairman Jeff Fager rejected Lance Armstrong's demand for an apology over a story that raised doping allegations, saying it stands by its report as "truthful, accurate and fair."
Armstrong's attorneys demanded an on-air apology from "60 Minutes" on Tuesday over allegations on the show's May 22 episode that Armstrong tested positive for a banned substance at the 2001 Tour de Suisse.
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"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," Fager said in his response.
The objections from Armstrong's attorneys come as Scott Pelley, the reporter on the story, prepares to take over Monday as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News." Fager, the executive producer of "60 Minutes" as well as the CBS News chairman, wasted no time trying to dismantle them.
Armstrong's former teammate, Tyler Hamilton, said on "60 Minutes" that Armstrong tested positive for the banned substance EPO at the 2001 Tour de Suisse but that "people took care of it" and "figured out a way for it to go away." Hamilton has twice tested positive for banned substances, and said Armstrong gave him drugs.
Pelley reported that a letter from a government investigator to the lab that tested Armstrong said that Armstrong's urine sample was "suspicious" and "consistent with EPO use." Pelley futher reported that Armstrong and his team manager met with the lab director, and later made two donations totaling $125,000 to the organization that polices doping.
"We alerted '60 Minutes' producers in advance of the show that virtually every single one of these allegations was false," Armstrong's attorneys said in their letter to Fager on Tuesday. "We provided evidence to prove it, and we warned CBS that the defamatory message that it sought to convey was an outrage. '60 Minutes' went ahead with the broadcast anyway."
The attorneys argued that since Armstrong did not test positive, and there was no meeting to cover it up, "the suggestion by host Scott Pelley that Mr. Armstrong's charitable contributions… were corrupt is the baseless icing on the defamatory cake."
They also note that Martial Saugy, the Swiss lab director, told The Washington Post after the report aired that he had no knowledge of Armstrong testing positive or of any cover-up.
Armstrong has always denied doping, and denied allegations by former teammate Floyd Landis that Landis and Armstrong received banned blood transfusions to improve their performance.
Fager's full letter to the lawyers:
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. Mr. Armstrong still has not addressed charges by teammates Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie that he used performance enhancing drugs with them.
1) The letter from Keker & Van Nest, Mr. Armstrong's attorneys, claims that there was no “positive” or “suspicious” test from the 2001 Tour de Suisse:
Mr. Armstrong's teammate, Tyler Hamilton, told 60 MINUTES about the 2001 Tour de Suisse test. Included in his interview are the same facts that Hamilton reported under oath to U.S. federal officials under the penalty of perjury.
60 MINUTES also reported that the Swiss Anti-Doping Laboratory Director, Dr. Martial Saugy, told U.S. officials and the FBI that that there was a “suspicious” test result from the Tour de Suisse in 2001. This was confirmed by a number of international officials who have linked the "suspicious" test to Armstrong. In recent days, Dr. Saugy finally confirmed to the media that there were "suspicious" test results.
2) The letter from Armstrong’s attorneys claims that 60 MINUTES was inaccurate in reporting about a meeting
60 Minutes reported there was a meeting between Dr. Saugy, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Bruyneel. Dr. Saugy refused our requests for an interview, but after the broadcast he confirmed that the meeting took place. Mr. Armstrong, after our broadcast, said he couldn’t recall that any such meeting took place.
3) Mr. Armstrong's lawyers claim our story was "shoddy," while we found at least three inaccuracies in their letter:
They claimed that 60 MINUTES reported the meeting took place at the Swiss lab; they claimed that 60 MINUTES reported the meeting took place in 2001; and they claimed that 60 MINUTES said it was a "secret" meeting. All three are wrong.
David Howman, managing director of the World Anti-Doping Agency, told 60 MINUTES that any meeting between Mr.Armstrong, Mr. Brunyeel and the Swiss lab director, Dr. Saugy, would be "highly unusual” and “inappropriate.”
Jeff Fager, chairman, CBS News, executive producer, 60 MINUTES