The former seven-time Tour de France winner is the subject of a new ESPN documentary called Lance

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 25, 2020 03:10 PM
Advertisement
AP

Lance Armstrong is unsure whether years of doping during his cycling career lead to his testicular cancer diagnosis in 1996.

The disgraced cycling champion is the subject of Lance, a new ESPN documentary series that catches up with him in the years since he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while chasing a record seven Tour de France titles.

The first episode of the series premiered Sunday night and saw filmmaker Marina Zenovich ask the 48-year-old whether he thought using the drugs caused his battle with metastatic testicular cancer.

Though he did not cite any scientific evidence, Armstrong implied that since the drugs he was taking were meant to spur "growth" in his muscular cells, he believed they could also have also spurred the growth of "bad" ones, such as cancer cells.

"I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t want to say no because I don’t think that’s right either," Armstrong said, as seen in a clip uploaded to Twitter by ESPN. "I don’t know if it’s yes or no, but I certainly wouldn’t say no. The only thing I will tell you is the only time in my life that I ever did growth hormone was the 1996 season."

"So just in my head, I’m like 'growth ... growing ... hormones and cells.' If anything good needs to be grown, it does," he continued. "But wouldn’t it also make sense if anything bad is there, that it, too, would grow?”

According to Yahoo Sports, Armstrong began doping around 1992, four years before his eventual diagnosis in October 1996. After the cancer was detected, it spread from his testicles to his abdomen, lungs and brain, but he made a full recovery and returned to cycling.

As noted in a 2018 Harvard Medical School article, studies have found that human growth hormone (HGH) can heighten the risk of cancer in general, including prostate cancer in particular. But there's a lack of information whether HGH, or other performance-enhancing drugs, can cause or have any effect on testicular cancer.

Dr. Lucio Tentori, a cancer researcher at the University of Rome Tor Vergata who published a 2007 study on doping and cancer, told ABC News in 2013 that it was difficult to find direct links to doping and cancer since performance-enhancing drugs are often used with other drugs.

"Several cases of cancers associated to the use of anabolic steroids as doping practice have been reported," Tentori said. "Unfortunately, to evaluate this cancer risk in controlled clinical studies is difficult since these substances are frequently used at very high doses and in combination with other licit or illicit drugs."

Lance Armstrong
Courtesy The Armstrong Lie

The first episode of Lance also saw Armstrong reveal that he was physically abused by his stepfather, Terry Armstrong, while growing up.

“Sure enough, I would leave a drawer open, and he would pull out his fraternity paddle and just beat the sh-- out of me,” he recalled.

“I was a taskmaster, but I didn’t put my arms around him enough and tell him I loved him,” Terry said in the documentary, as noted by USA Today. “I was always there, always coaching him, always pushing him. But I didn’t show him the love that I should have.”