CBS' Bode Miller drunk while skiing claim: Is it accurate? Is it libel?


CBS’ Bode Miller “drunk while skiing” claim: Is it accurate? Is it libel?{mosimage}[This article, first published Jan. 8, has not been changed since then, but the story behind it sure has. Click here for the inside story.]

Bode Miller is in trouble again for something he said.

Maybe.

No one will know until Sunday night whether Miller actually admitted to racing a World Cup while under the influence of alcohol, as the CBS news program “60 Minutes” has claimed.

CBS sent out a press release about the show under the headline ‘World Cup Ski Champ Admits to Being Drunk on Slopes’ and including quotes in which Miller discusses how challenging it is to ski while intoxicated.

According to Cathy Olian, the producer of the segment, Miller related a story about World Cup Finals last season at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, where he celebrated clinching the overall title and then raced a slalom the next day.

‘Basically he just told us a story about the night he won the World Cup’ said Olian, contacted by phone on Saturday afternoon. ‘That’s basically what he said … he was still feeling the effects the next morning.’

The CBS release, which was posted at the CBS News Web site late on Thursday night, was quickly picked up by The Associated Press, the news agency, and was printed around the country.

European agencies followed suit, and the media came to Adelboden, Switzerland, ready to hear from Miller on the subject, but on Saturday Miller refused to speak with print or TV journalists.

Meanwhile attention turned to the fact that CBS had altered the release, changing its headline from ‘Bode Miller on Skiing Drunk’ to ‘Gold Not Important to Bode Miller.’

In a statement e-mailed to reporters, Miller’s agent, Lowell Taub, wrote that CBS may have committed libel if they can’t prove Miller actually spoke about skiing drunk.

‘We are currently talking with CBS to confirm if they have any audio from Bode whatsoever wherein he claims to be “drunk while skiing” rather than stating that his nightlife has “affected his performance’ wrote Taub.

In a phone interview, Taub told Ski Racing ‘we’re saddened that this is a release that has raced around the world, but we are hoping and expecting that it will be a fair and balanced piece that will portray what an honorable athlete Bode is.’

The U.S. Ski Team is expected to react to the news only after the segment airs on Sunday night.

A bit of background
Miller’s nightlife has been an issue between him and his coaches for years. Ski Racing magazine’s unofficial policy has been to steer clear of it unless it directly affects his life on the snow.

World Cup ski races frequently take place in small towns, where contact between athletes and journalists is unavoidable in the small taverns where both groups unwind. Unlike in professional American sports, there are few bars on the ski circuit with discreet VIP lounges for athletes to hang out in.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is only rarely reported on. Most journalists try to keep their distance, since Miller frequently complains about being approached by interested fans while trying to relax, and because most recognize that athletes have a right to privacy.

But even if they wanted to, journalists would not need to dig for dirt on Miller; he often serves it up to them willingly in press conferences, or in interviews, as it does in the current issue of Maxim magazine. Miller has always maintained that guarding his image is practically impossible.

Last month, Miller was fined for refusing to submit to a boot test. The U.S. Ski Team has paid that $762 fine.

This article, first published Jan. 8, has not been changed since then, but the story behind it sure has. Click here for the inside story.

The CBS press release that sparked the Bode Miller fireU.S. Ski Team coaches giving Bode Miller an ultimatum

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