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Memo to Lance Armstrong: Enough is Enough, So Please Shut Up

| September 17, 2012

Lance Armstrong, still running.

Lance Armstrong, still running. (Paul Coster)

By Tom O’Hara


TO: Lance Armstrong, testicular cancer survivor

FROM: Tom O’Hara, testicular cancer survivor

RE: Your annoying behavior

Lance, please, please just take your money, go to a tropical island and stop talking. Please stop talking.

I see you appeared before the World Cancer Congress on Aug. 29 and said: “My name is Lance Armstrong. I am a cancer survivor. I’m a father of five. And, yes, I won the Tour de France seven times.”

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Lance, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped you of those titles when you refused to contest charges that you used banned drugs and blood transfusions while winning those races.

I don’t have any respect for Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens, but they don’t annoy me like you do.

It’s the cancer thing that’s been driving me crazy for years. It drives me nuts when people make a career out of being a “cancer survivor.”

I know your cancer had spread before you were diagnosed, but even so, the survival rates for testicular cancer are dramatic – between 80 and 99 percent. You were diagnosed in 1996; I was diagnosed in 1984.

Even back then, the doctors were matter-of-fact about my prognosis. Endure the surgeries and the chemo, they said, and you’ll be fine.

I know the treatment is nasty. My chemo cocktail was similar to yours and I wouldn’t wish those months of treatment on a suicide bomber. But as you said last week about fighting the drug allegations: “Enough is enough.”

Please apply that wisdom to the “cancer survivor” shtick.

Since the testicular cancer, I’ve had cancer of the bladder and the prostate. Throw in some skin cancer, too. It’s all been annoying and unpleasant, but most cancer is treatable these days. Surviving the disease does not make you special.

I have to give you kudos for returning to cycling after the cancer. You’re clearly a gifted and dedicated athlete and I’m sure getting back into shape was a struggle. But I’m not aware of any research that shows that a testicular cancer survivor sustains any permanent damage to his athletic ability. You have one less testicle and a few scars.

You also deserve a salute for your chutzpah and commanding personality. You were able to surround yourself for years with people who were so devoted to you that they helped you cheat.

And you have such adoring fans. It’s like a cult.

For years I’ve been mystified by the Lance Armstrong mystique. It’s been clear for a long time that you were doping, but you were the Teflon cheater.

I suspect part of it is that many cycling fans are zealots. Most of them ride themselves and they are a more intense breed than those of us who golf with a six-pack in the cart.

The whole “triumph over cancer” narrative was just too inspiring. Kudos to your PR people. They’ve done impressive work. And you play the part very well.

But the gig is up now. If you want to continue to raise money to fight cancer, I applaud you. But, please, try being a quiet and humble philanthropist from now on.

A former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post and Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tom O’Hara is a national columnist for Florida Voices.

21 Responses for “Memo to Lance Armstrong: Enough is Enough, So Please Shut Up”

  1. JL Smith says:

    I’m sorry, Tom–but you’re WAY out of line when you offhandedly state that “It’s all been annoying and unpleasant, but most cancer is treatable these days. Surviving the disease does not make you special.”

    For the thousands–no, make that MILLIONS of us who have lost family members to “most” cancers, that is an utterly crass, rude, insensitive and stupid statement. Maybe YOU’RE the one who should “go to a tropical island and stop talking.” No, really– PLEASE stop talking.

    • Steve H. says:

      The point is that cancer does not discriminate. It affects the decent as well as the evil. Therefore, its presence should never be used as a guage of character in any way. There are many other reliable ways to measure character. It is too easy to hide behind a status of victim/survivor… the pedophile behind the robe.

  2. Steve H. says:

    Very well said! “Less noise, more poise” Actually, we would settle for any poise.

  3. jespo says:

    Good letter Tom. I’ve lost most of my family to cancer or other diseases, and many friends to HIV, Hepetitis, and other diseases, and their survival throughout their battles with disease did not make them special; human yes, but not special. It was HOW they fought, their attitude, their outlook, their compassion for others suffering like themselves and their desire to keep living….THAT’s what made them special. There’s no inherent nobility in getting sick and not dying from it.

    I agree about Lance Armstrong. His legacy will be forever tainted and corrupted by his drug use, his achievements all in question. I would try to be a better role model to others and confess the mistake and condemn the usage of drugs so other young cyclists don’t go down the same road.

  4. Jordan says:

    Hey Tom. “Please stop talking.” Seems like you are relying on your testicular survival to give you more of a voice in relation to this matter. Isn’t that what you’re upset at Armstrong for doing? Except unlike you, he is using his voice to raise millions for cancer research. Additionally, if not one dollar he raised benefited you at all go ahead and complain but I’d bet his organization benefited you either directly or indirectly. You’re one person just like him. The difference is I’ve never heard of you before.

  5. William B says:

    Wow what a rude and highly unprofessional comment. I really do not have many words to describe such an article. Thanks for nothing, and keep up the postive outlook on things.

  6. Peter Thomas says:


    I completely agree. I think that Lance must have an army of paid bloggers out there because most people I know are disgusted with the way he keeps denying the obvious: he cheated and he lied about his cheating. Lance is not a person who gives up unless it is utterly hopeless. That is why he did not fight the USADA charges – via an arbitration process that Judge Sparks said was completely fair.

    That said one does have some sympathy for all professional cyclists over the last 20+ years. If you knew that it was possible to cheat and not get caught and that your competitors were doing it then what would you do? The real solution to all this is much much better testing and governing bodies that are truly independent of the commercial interests of the sport.

  7. Frankie says:

    Thank you for writing such a great memo.

  8. Clint says:

    Like so many role models the media builds up, their really only cheaters and drug users. Can we get the MEDIA to “shut up” ?

  9. Dr.Grant Sayer says:

    Arrogant, insensitive rubbish from you Tom…are you envious?…Take note that USADA does not have the authority to strip titles earned in another country, only the UCI does. Take note also, that Armstrong has been the most tested athlete in history, yet never a positive test and as a medical scientist, I can assure you that even the smallest metabolite will be detected many months after ingestion. You are guilty of defamatory comments.
    Dr.Sayer, former Fed Govt MO & consultant to the WHO

    • Stuart says:

      That was part of my reaction, Dr. Sayer: The USADA has stripped nothing, because they don’t have the authority. Moreover, the UCI (who may have the authority; there’s yet dispute about this) has yet to see proof of misconduct on the part of Mr. Armstrong from USADA. The USADA has (or had) eleven people “prepared to testify.” By not contesting, Mr. Armstrong has put USADA in the position of having to take statements from these witnesses and forward these to UCI as “evidence” of misconduct. To date, that hasn’t happened. To date, Lance Armstrong is still a seven-time winner of the TdF.

      It’s my opinion that the USADA does not have evidence that would stand up in a court of law. It’s clear from comments on this page they’ve done marvelously in the court of public opinion.

      (Not that anyone’s asked my opinion but: virtually everyone he beat in those years was caught at one time or another using performance enhancing substances. Some of them have since said they were using even in the years they weren’t caught.)

    • Steve H. says:

      Dr. Who? What? Come on, man. EPO is a small glycoprotein that is biologically active at miniscule concentrations with no detectable metabolites. All indications are that cheaters use tiny, repeated doses and have the “glow times” worked out. Autologous blood transfusions have been undetectable except for highly suggestive aberrations in the hematocrit/reticulocyte ratios. Corroborating testimony from teammates could make an ironclad case. Have you seen the highly suggestive blood counts from the 2009 tour that LA put on line and quickly removed when they raised hematologists’ eyebrows? That’s what’s going on. Don’t pull rank here unless you have got all the data (there are other MD’s in the room). Wait to hear the evidence as any real doctor would.

    • prdx2222 says:

      Doc – what you say is a crock. Period. Lance doped but got away with it. Relying on ‘no failed tests’ is an old, worn out line. Read Tyler Hamilton’s book and you will see how they avoided detection.

      Tom, I commend you for saying what so many would like to say, but do not b/c they don’t want to deal with the backlash of LA fanboys who have already drunk the yellow Kool-Aid. Yes, Dr. Sayer, I include you in that group…

  10. Miguel alsorain says:

    Excellent article from a different prospective.Lance should go down as the fraud he is and just go away.Absolutely.
    His arrogance won’t let him.
    He will also never admit to it.
    His lawyers won’t let him.

  11. JL says:

    Sorry, I disagree with this. Whether or not Lance is/was guity of doping up, he has done a world of good for raising money for cancer. And sorry, but him talking over and over about his having cancer is what makes people donate money. Sad but true, they don’t care so much to give to healthy people who have never experienced it. I am a survivor of cancer. Kidney cancer. One of those cancers thats usually found too late. God intervened in my case and randomly mine was found early enough. I do not tell people unless the subject of cancer comes up, because all of a sudden, people are very sympathetic towards you when they find out. I do not need that. But if it meant I could raise millions of dollars towards curing cancer? I would tell the world!! Let Lance be. His Livestrong has raised so many millions of dollars to help those with cancer. If you don’t like it, turn the channel, or go to a different website.

  12. Julien Devries says:

    Thank you. Spot on. By the way, Cycling fans dropped lance years ago. All he has left are the cancer groupies. Cyclists think he is a fool

  13. Mark says:

    Excellent commentary! I agree that Armstrong is a dishonest opportunist as well as a cheater, who is doing like you say, making money off of other peoples good nature. It’s good to hear from an actual cancer survivor who is also sick of Lance. Congrats to you and all the other cancer survivors who are more heroic than Lance because you don’t stand on a soap box telling everybody how great you are. Unfortunately, most Lance Fans put him on a pedastal as if he has actually cured cancer.

  14. Liana G says:

    Great article Tom. Isn’t Mr Armstrong very fortunate that he has the resources to take care of his illness? Why is Mr Armstrong’s survival any more important than that of any other individual battling some other type of sickness? In the final analysis, we all die. Yes, we may be able to cheat death for a while but not forever. Enduring a painful existence just to prolong the inevitable is narcissism at its extreme.

    Scientists have predicted that because of man’s destruction, the earth will not be around in 100 years. Hence the mad rush to explore other planets so the rich can find a new habitat to escape to, invade and ruin, eventually. While some scientists are actively pursuing this course, others are actively trying to reduce the impact of earth’s impending demise for the sake of the generation that will be around when it happens. But again, in the final scheme of things, we all die. It just a matter of how we die. Go with dignity Mr Armstrong, while you still have some left.

  15. James Walker says:

    I would like to point out the testicular cancer causes and abrupt end to testosterone production. If Lance were to have taken testosterone shouldn’t he be able to compete equally with other athlese who are naturally producing testosterone. Women take estrogen everyday in birth control pills does this make them equally guilty. Lance is an athlete by nature and deserves to play on an equal playing field. The US doping agency is on a witch hunt to prove their existence is warrented.. So before everyone convicts Lance for being tired of fighting. do your research and learn more about the effects of this form of cancer and the toll it takes on the male body.

  16. Daniel Green says:

    Yeah, this whole debacle is really bad news, no matter which side one might choose. There’s one thing that irks me, tho’. Despite what many writers/pundits might think, Lance is certainly *NOT* the greatest professional racing cyclist ever, not by a bloody long shot. Anyone who thinks that distinction falls to Armstrong clearly belies their ignorance of cyclesport; that honor belongs solely to Eddy Merckx of Belgium.

  17. Virginia says:

    Thank you, Thank you for being bold enough to print this! Lance Armstrong sickens me….and to see him doing triathlons now so he can stay in the media spotlight….It is an insult to the professional triathletes who compete WITHOUT cheating and WITHOUT the media attention so many other sports gather!

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