Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lance Armstrong: Road Racing Cyclist

Lance Edward Armstrong (born Lance Edward Gunderson, September 18, 1971) is an American former professional road racing cyclist who won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times after having survived testicular cancer. He is also the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer support. He last rode for UCI ProTeam Team RadioShack, a team he helped found. He has been accused of doping by high-profile cyclists, journalists, anti-doping agencies and U.S. prosecutors, culminating in the United States Anti-Doping Agency declaring his results since August 1998 to be void. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has asked for a reasoned decision before taking action while the World Anti-Doping Agency has expressed its support to USADA and said it has the right to apply a penalty that will be recognized by all WADA code countries around the world.

In October 1996 he was diagnosed as having testicular cancer with a tumor that had metastasized to his brain and lungs. His cancer treatments included brain and testicular surgery and extensive chemotherapy, and his prognosis was initially poor. In 1999, he was named the ABC Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. In 2000 he won the Prince of Asturias Award in Sports. In 2002, Sports Illustrated magazine named him Sportsman of the Year. He was also named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the years 2002–2005. He received ESPN's ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, and won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award in 2003. Armstrong announced his retirement from racing on July 24, 2005, at the end of the 2005 Tour de France but returned to competitive cycling in January 2009 and finished third in the 2009 Tour de France. He confirmed he had retired from competitive cycling for good on February 16, 2011.

In June 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) officially charged Armstrong with having used illicit performance enhancing drugs, based on blood samples from 2009 and 2010 as well as the testimony of other cyclists. Armstrong challenged this in federal court, claiming that his right to due process was being violated and that USADA did not have jurisdiction over the case; the case was dismissed on August 20, 2012. On August 23, 2012, Armstrong announced that he would not be fighting the USADA's charges. Later that day the USADA confirmed in a statement that Armstrong was banned for life and would be disqualified from any and all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to August 1, 1998, including forfeiture of any medals, titles, winnings, finishes, points and prizes. Armstrong has questioned whether the USADA has the legal authority to enforce their ruling. The UCI have not yet enforced any ban, but have requested that USADA provide a reasoned decision explaining the action taken.


On October 2, 1996, then aged 25, Armstrong was diagnosed as having developed stage three testicular cancer (Embryonal carcinoma). The cancer spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. On that first visit to a urologist in Austin, Texas, for his cancer symptoms he was coughing up blood and had a large, painful testicular tumor. Immediate surgery and chemotherapy were required to save his life. Armstrong had an orchiectomy to remove his diseased testicle. After his surgery, his doctor stated that he had less than a 40% survival chance. The standard chemotherapeutic regimen for the treatment of this type of cancer is a cocktail of the drugs bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatin (or Platinol) (BEP). Armstrong, however, chose an alternative, etoposide, ifosfamide, and cisplatin (VIP), to avoid the lung toxicity associated with the drug bleomycin. This decision may have saved his cycling career.

His primary treatment was received at the Indiana University (IU), Indianapolis, Medical Center, where Lawrence Einhorn had pioneered the use of cisplatinum to treat testicular cancer. His primary oncologist there was Craig Nichols. His brain tumors were surgically removed by Scott A. Shapiro, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery at Indiana University and Resident Director, and were found to contain extensive necrosis. According to Armstrong's first book, Shapiro convinced him that he was the right neurosurgeon for him by saying: "You'll have to convince me you know what you're doing," said Armstrong. "Look, I've done a large number of these," Shapiro said, "I've never had anyone die, and I've never made anyone worse." "Yeah, but why should you be the person who operates on my head?"

Armstrong responded. "Because as good as you are at cycling"-he paused-"I'm a lot better at brain surgery". His last chemotherapy treatment was received on December 13, 1996. His cancer went into complete remission, and by January 1998 he was already engaged in serious training for racing, moving to Europe to race for the U.S. Postal team. A pivotal week (April 1998) in his comeback was one he spent training in the very challenging Appalachian terrain around Boone, North Carolina, with his racing friend Bob Roll.

Allegations of doping

For much of the second phase of his career, Armstrong has faced persistent allegations of doping. A number of high-profile cyclists and journalists have alleged that he cheated although Armstrong retains respect and prestige in some circles. Armstrong has been criticised for his disagreements with outspoken opponents of doping such as Paul Kimmage and Christophe Bassons, the only cyclist in his team to come clean of drugs during the infamous Festina affair. Bassons wrote a number of articles for a French newspaper during the 1999 Tour de France which made references to doping in the peloton. Subsequently, Armstrong had an altercation with Bassons during the 1999 Tour de France where Bassons said Armstrong rode up alongside on the Alpe d'Huez stage to tell him "it was a mistake to speak out the way I (Bassons) do and he (Armstrong) asked why I was doing it. 

I told him that I'm thinking of the next generation of riders. Then he said 'Why don't you leave, then?'" Armstrong confirmed the story. On the main evening news on TF1, a national television station, Armstrong said: "His accusations aren't good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he's wrong and he would be better off going home". Kimmage, a professional cyclist in the 1980s who later became a sports journalist, referred to Armstrong as a "cancer in cycling". He also asked Armstrong questions in relation to his "admiration for dopers" at a press conference at the Tour of California in 2009, provoking a scathing reaction from Armstrong. This spat continued and is exemplified by Kimmage's articles in The Sunday Times. 

Armstrong has continually denied using illegal performance-enhancing drugs and has described himself as the most tested athlete in the world. A 1999 urine sample showed traces of corticosteroid in an amount that was not in the positive range. A medical certificate showed he used an approved cream for saddle sores which contained the substance. Emma O' Reilly, Armstrong's masseuse said she heard team officials worrying about Armstrong's positive test for steroids during the Tour. She said: "They were in a panic, saying: 'What are we going to do? What are we going to do?'". According to O'Reilly the solution was to get one of their compliant doctors to issue a pre-dated prescription for a steroid-based ointment to combat saddle sores. O'Reilly said she would have known if Armstrong had saddle sores as she would have administered any treatment for it. O'Reilly said that Armstrong told her: "Now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down." O'Reilly said on other occasions she was asked to dispose of used syringes for Armstrong and pick up strange parcels for the team.


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