For Armstrong, no journey is too long to fight cancer

The Kickoff

July 07, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

If anyone is wondering what happened to perennial Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, he's glued to the Outdoor Life Network like everybody else with an interest in world-class cycling, except when he's training for the New York Marathon and getting ready to stick his toe in the water at next week's American Century Celebrity Golf Championship near Lake Tahoe, Nev.

No wonder his lawyers announced yesterday that he is dropping his remaining two defamation lawsuits in Europe. The guy is so busy trotting the globe to promote his cancer foundation that he has grown weary of battling the incessant rumors that he used performance-enhancing drugs on the way to an unprecedented string of seven straight Tour de France victories.

"Our record has been ... I don't know, I think we're 10-0 in lawsuits," Armstrong said during a conference call for the celebrity golf event yesterday. "Right now, my life is not about that anymore. I've answered all the questions, I stood up to all the interrogations and investigations, and it's now time to do stuff like this and stuff that is more important.

"If I'm going to spend money it's going to be on a good cause and not on something like that. Again, I can't reiterate enough our record with regards to that stuff. I don't need to go win another lawsuit. What I need to do is try to effect change with regard to cancer."

Armstrong, who rates himself as a double-bogey golfer - the guy definitely is growing on me - will play in the celebrity-amateur event Thursday before flying to Paris to be with his cycling team for the conclusion of the Tour de France. He isn't ruling out playing in the main celebrity event with the likes of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in the future, but isn't ready to put his golf game on display at that level.

Barkley already has thrown down the gauntlet.

"He says that it's not a sport, bike riding is not a sport," Armstrong said. "So I'm bringing him a bike and we're going to find out what's a sport."

Armstrong is paying close attention to what's going on in Europe, where this year's Tour de France was rocked by a drug scandal that prompted the withdrawal of nine riders right before the race, then lost popular Alejandro Valverde to a collarbone fracture Tuesday.

"It's fascinating to watch because every day there is a new issue or crash," Armstrong said. "Just losing Valverde the other day was a big blow to the Tour. But it's anybody's race. We'll know on Saturday or Sunday when they do the time trial. We'll start to have an idea."

Barkley wasn't involved in yesterday's media teleconference, but he never seemed to be far out of the conversation. Armstrong wasn't shy about poking him about his recent gambling revelations after San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson told reporters, "I bet I can beat Charles Barkley."

"I think we should be careful not to mention Charles' name in the same sentence as betting," Armstrong quipped.

So, why would Armstrong take time out from his busy retirement to put his admittedly so-so golf game on display in front of so many fans and fellow celebrities?

Because he'll go just about anywhere and accept any challenge to support or promote his Live Strong Foundation. Frankly, some of the most compelling aspects of OLN's coverage of the Tour de France are his dramatic public service spots featuring cancer survivors, their families and their friends giving quick testimonials to the importance of increased research and awareness.

The goal is to save the lives of the estimated 200,000 people who will die this year of cancers that could have been cured if they were discovered in time.

"It's the difference between what we know and what we do, and that's a very big difference," Armstrong said yesterday. "Just narrowing that gap, you save 200,000 lives. If you think about, No. 1, 200,000 lives. We think about 9/11 and we think 3,000 lives, and I remember that so well and remember what that meant to the American people. Well, this is 70 times that big. It's a 9/11 every two days with this disease. That has to change."peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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