An Open Letter to Lance Armstrong's Lawyers

They're demanding an on-air apology from 60 Minutes for the segment on the cyclist's alleged doping. Do they think we're stupid?

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters


Re: June 1 demand for public apology from CBS News

Dear shameless, high-priced flacks esteemed legal representatives of Lance Armstrong,

On behalf of the segment of the population that is currently awake, paying attention, and not in a medically comatose and/or trauma-induced vegetative state, I ask that you explain to the general public that your demand that 60 Minutes apologize on air to Lance Armstrong was a cynical, empty public relations gesture that even an unusually perceptive chimpanzee could see right through.

Moreover, I demand that you issue a written apology to the American public for holding its collective intelligence in such obvious and searing contempt, as well as mistakenly assuming that your law degrees confer not only legal knowledge and a peerless ability to obfuscate, but also Jedi mind trick powers.

They do not. No matter how high your hourly rate is.

Your aggrieved letter to CBS News centers around a single allegation made during the May 22 broadcast of 60 Minutes: that Armstrong tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing blood-booster EPO during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland and possibly had the result covered up. You state that this allegation is reckless. You call it demonstrably false. You repeatedly throw out the word "defamatory." You dub correspondent Scott Pelley's words "untethered to reality." You spend four droning, repetitive pages - seriously, your whole argument could have been squeezed into three paragraphs - complaining about the unjust, inexcusable, shoddy, and vicious failed drug test allegation, as if every other damning allegation made during the program never existed.

Talk about untethered to reality.

In your letter, you claim that the drug test allegation was both a "centerpiece" and "the heart" of the 60 Minutes report. This is demonstrably false. The heart of the broadcast was former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton claiming in an on-camera interview that he: (a) saw Armstrong take performance-enhancing drugs including EPO and testosterone; (b) saw Armstrong receive a banned blood transfusion; (c) had knowledge of Armstrong encouraging and promoting doping by the U.S Postal team; (d) had knowledge of banned Italian trainer Michele Ferrari giving Armstrong a doping schedule; (e) gave testimony regarding the preceding to a federal grand jury investigating Armstrong.

The heart of the broadcast also was a report from unidentified sources that another former Armstrong teammate, George Hincapie, told the same grand jury that he and Armstrong supplied each other with EPO and discussed using testosterone to prepare for races.

Curiously, your letter ignores these wide-ranging allegations, which are potentially far more damaging to Armstrong's reputation than a single alleged decade-old failed doping test. So why would you fixate on said test? Perhaps because you're employing a classic public relations/political campaign trick that also serves as a time-honored junior high debate team strategy: When you're stuck with a losing argument, change the terms of the debate. Control the frame. Make a mountain out of a molehill and hope the public loses sight of the active volcano next door. Wave a hand, then tell Darth Vader's landspeeder Keystone traffic cops that these are not, in fact, the droids they are looking for.

Presented by

Patrick Hruby is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He has contributed to Sports on Earth, ESPN.com, and Washingtonian magazine, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. He is a former adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

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