Lance Armstrong's cancer doctor expresses his disappointment in discovering the former cyclist's doping, but hopes people can forgive him

The doctor who treated Lance Armstrong during his cancer therapy has said that the former cyclist remains a “hero” to every cancer patient and that he hopes the public can forgive him for using performance enhancing drugs throughout every one of his seven Tour de France victories.

Dr David Agus, who is also a best-selling author, has treated the likes of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs in his career as well as Armstrong and told the BBC’s In Short programme on Wednesday about the disappointment he felt after the Texan had lied about his use of performance enhancing drugs.

“I went before US congress and I talked about him in his favour and said ‘you know the only people being harmed are cancer patients when we put down Lance,'” Agus said.

“I truly believed he was innocent and I think in one warped way he believed so too in his mind, which is why he told me and everyone he knew that he was innocent. And obviously there’s something else going on there.

“But he was a hero to every cancer patient and he’ll remain such aside from the cycling issues.”

Dr Agus also said that he hoped that public perception of Armstrong was starting to change. The former US Postal cyclist was stripped of all seven of his Tour victories in 2012 after the USADA report into his doping practices was published, and Armstrong later admitted to using drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.


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But his former doctor insists that with all cycling issues aside, Armstrong continues to be a role model to cancer patients around the world after his decision to setup the Livestrong foundation after his own recovery.

“It was very disappointing and disheartening first of all that a friend that you trusted, that the truth was the opposite,” Agus said.

“The other side of it though, I saw him six or eight months ago and he tweeted out a picture of the two of us having a glass of wine and there were hundreds and hundreds of retweets and not one of them was negative. So he said in his tweet that ‘I’m back in the fight against cancer’. The hope is that he can continue to the good he did before.

“This is a kid who wasn’t well educated and a wild partier and the day he finished cancer therapy he could have turned left and gone back to cycling and done that but he turned right and gave a good portion of his proceeds and most of his time to fighting cancer.

“I hope so [the perception is changing]. We need the good that he was doing. You need aspirational role models in the cancer field because there aren’t that many. So the fact that he stood up and was so public and transparent about his cancer and at the same time had a good out come makes him this aspirational role model in the cancer world.”

  • Andrew, as a cyclist and a former cancer sufferer, I feel somewhat qualified to respond.

    I guess what offends me about the doctor’s ridiculously overly broad statement is what bothered me about the whole LAF and LA himself. That is largely because they all seem to think that ANY single person can speak for all of us … be we cyclists, cancer survivors or both.

    We’re just like other people. We represent a diversity of opinion,beliefs, susceptibility to a scam or just willingness to put our hopes on someone in the belief that they are somehow superhuman. Indeed, I think putting that much stock in someone is unfair to them as well … even if that is the application of self-imposed and self-promoted expectations.

    Throughout a time that required three surgeries and five months worth of chemo, my only heroes were my wife, my son and my daughter. They did not disappoint. I doubt that others who put a lot of stock into manufactured heroes can say the same thing.

  • its not written in stone “qualifications” of a hero. But that’s the point, and I’m sure a fact, you’re aware of.

  • RobTM

    Actually Moore was huge international star and competed after recovering from cancer. He didn’t exploit it for publicity, or as a cover story and died much much later in 1993.

    Armstrong defrauded the sport, his sponsers and IS only internationally known because he cheated his was to many TdF wins. He only fessed up, after years of non-cooperation and attacking USADA for investigating his case. As a hero, he’s a very very poor choice.

  • Nigel Rue

    I helped a blind guy cross the road yesterday, that doesn’t make me a hero.

  • I’d suggest, it’s highly likely.
    An unfortunate aspect of his exposed drug taking (in combination with an eager UCI, seeking the globalisation & US dollars) is that his world title is questionable, as much as results “afterwards”.

    A hero, is a selfless acting person, whom commits an action, for the benefit of others, without seeking reward or recognition.

  • kr1960

    Bobby Moore was a great footballer and an inspirational character, but sadly, he didn’t recover from cancer. He wasn’t in the same mould as Armstrong anyway (who is?) and could not have attracted the same worldwide attention.

    Armstrong was always going to the top one way or another. We’ll never know if he would have made it without drugs, but his World championship win at 21 years old was awe-inspiring. So were some of his other wins including tour stages – its one of the reasons most people were so disappointed later.

    But, he has fessed up, taken a lot of punishment, given a load of perhaps useful information (I don’t know) and lost a shed load of money. So maybe its time to leave him alone, and the upside of this is, we’ll stop hearing about him so much.

  • Nigel Rue

    Firstly, I wonder if the drugs he took helped result in his cancer?
    Secondly, I always thought a hero was someone who risks his/her life to help others.

  • cocopop133

    I’ve gone through the cancer experience. It’s absolutely presumptuous and paternalistic of Agus to assign hero status to Armstrong on my behalf. Speak for yourself poppy.

  • LMV1

    And such a hero status should be discussed, it they want to, by cancer patients and survivors in cancer related forums. As a cyclist it gets tiring to have down your throat time and again that others benefited from his existence, when in cycling we had to put up with his bad side and only his bad side.

  • LMV1

    I think they refer not to his own recovery, but to the attention and money he got for the decease and how it benefited others. My own take is that, as far as LA is concerned, a) there was a lot of cynicism in such actions, as they increased his market value and was using them directly to sell stuff, such as in Nike commercials that used the “cancer” line and b) he used it as a shield to be a bast..d to everyone in cycling. Why should a whole sport, its fans and professionals have to endure such an attitude and its consequences (ask Emma OReilly)? (thus my Escobar example)

  • Chris Britton

    If you’d had cancer you would understand. After 3 years of brutal chemotherapy I couldn’t ride more than 5 miles at a time, and it took me 6 months to get up to 30 mile rides, and a year to get up to 60, and to see somebody like Lance competiting in one of the toughest physical events in sport was inspiring, and yes, he does qualify as a hero. Absolute disgrace and a cheat as well, but still a hero to many.

  • RobTM

    Cycling issues?? So without his successful cheating, cancer patients would have even heard of LA, who was a second rater without the best doping.
    There have to be better cancer recovery heroes, Bobby Moore for example, they deserve someone with integrity, not someone who cheated to amass a huge personal fortune

  • Andrew Bairsto

    What a load of rubbish.

  • The powerhouse

    Armstrong is a sociopathic narcissist who did everything to benefit himself, including his phony cancer shield, Armstrong is a nasty piece work who destroyed the livelihoods many innocent people who attempted to expose the worlds greatest sporting fraud. Armstrong is a scourge to mankind and the greatest cancer of all.

  • poisonjunction

    So What??????

  • Neilo

    Why would recoverimg from cancer, or not recovering, make you a “hero” anyway?

  • Neilo

    Whom did Jan Ullrich try to destroy, other than himself perhaps?

  • LMV1

    And I guess LA’s doctor thinks it’s OK to throw under the bus a whole sport because it had a positive effect elsewhere. BTW many of the poor in Medellin, Colombia thought Pablo Escobar was a nice guy because he would give a lot of his drug money to help them (he also loved the adoration it created). Shall we now make Escobar a hero?

  • Kevino Daviessss

    Jan Ullrich amongst many others at the time did! It was all about self preservation for every single one of them.
    All these people who claimed they were scared and came forward afterwards, they all knew for many years what was going on, who’s more of a coward?

    Go back to my response, tell me a top rider in those 7 tours who didn’t dope.

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Tell me a top rider in his era who tried to destroy anyone who looked for the truth?? Thought so……

  • Kevino Daviessss

    Tell me a top rider in his era who was clean?? Thought so……

  • Andrew Bairsto

    Why I care and so do a lot more cyclists who are cancer sufferers,if you were honest with yourself you would admit that most top cyclists of his era had some sort of assistance.I was never a fan of his more a Jan Ulrich man myself but both were superb riders.

  • Andrew Crowther

    Who cares?? I don’t care if Lance’s gardener thinks he’s a hero. Stop talking about Lance Armstrong.