Of course such a claim was “controversial”! Extraordinary claims require an extraordinary level of proof. The claim stimulated a lot of further research and host of arguments and counter-hypotheses. What the pundits now should consider is the outcome.
The authors responded with an extended review in2009: David S. McKay, Kathie L. Thomas-Keprta, Simon J. Clemett, Everett K. Gibson, Jr. Life on Mars: New Evidence from Martian Meteorites. [Proceedings of SPIE 7441, 744102 (2009)].
High time our lazy pundits recognised the scientific process and gave due recognition to this work – and to astrobiology as serious science.