Reporters can be a suspicious lot by nature. 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley and his producer certainly trained all their skepticism on Lance Armstrong during a story that aired on May 22, 2011 that lays out the ways he may have used illegal performance-enhancing drugs on his way to seven consecutive Tour de France wins. Armstrong’s lawyers have demanded an on-air apology from 60 Minutes for reporting they term as ‘untethered to reality.’
Other reporters have rushed to the defense of 60 Minutes.
However the battle of public opinion plays out Armstrong may well get his day in court. After being impaneled back in September 2010, a Los Angeles grand jury is apparently still hearing testimony on the Armstrong doping case. Armstrong’s lawyers have had pointed remarks for the Federal Investigator in the case, Jeff Novitzky, that explicitly wrap Armstrong in the cloak of an anti-cancer hero.
“We know Novitzky,” says Armstrong’s attorney John Keker, “and plan to prove that these are his repeated, illegal leaks aimed solely at destroying a true hero, not just in sports but in the fight against cancer,” he said. “That the government is spending tax money investigating long ago bike races in Europe is an outrage.”
Sports Illustrated reporter and columnist Michael Farber doesn’t believe Armstrong won all those Tours without doping. And as a cancer survivor himself, he doesn’t care that much. “To some, a successful government case against Armstrong would forever change the modern concept of a hero,” he writes. “I don’t see it that way. I don’t really care if the next Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton says he has proof Armstrong was climbing the Alps with rocket fuel steaming out of his ears, because Armstrong is transcendent.”
In other words, when Farber weighs in the balance that oft-imitated (and never duplicated) little yellow bracelet along with all the other elements that make up Livestrong, the inspirational anti-cancer charity, it’s newsworthy that Lance Armstrong probably cheated, just not pertinent to him and other cancer survivors and anti-cancer crusaders.
A lot of people are in the same boat when it comes to Armstrong. Like the Facebook category ‘it’s complicated’ describes our feelings for the man.
Farber puts it well in his Sports Illustrated column, “I may not accept Armstrong’s stonewalling in the face of all the accusations. But I accept that he helps men like Parker (the man who gave Farber a Livestrong bracelet when he received his own cancer diagnosis) pay his life forward…At the Church of Lance, we count our blessings along with our beads.”
In effect Armstrong’s deeds with Livestrong have created a kind of insurance policy that has given the man and the his charity brand a little cover.
Will it be enough should the Los Angeles Grand Jury return an indictment against Armstrong? What if Armstrong is convicted of doping?