We liveblogged this morning's Triblive with Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor who was instrumental in creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, and is now pushing smoke-free workplace bills in the Legislature.
Armstrong knows adversity; in 1997, he was a 25-year-old cyclist battling testicular cancer that spread to his brain and lungs. In recent years, he's been dogged by allegations of doping. Despite lingering controversy, none have been confirmed.
During his struggles with cancer, Armstrong created a cancer foundation for survivors known as LIVESTRONG. He has lobbied for cancer research and smoke-free workplace legislation from Washington to Texas. In 2007, Armstrong led the charge for Texas' Proposition 15, which authorized the sale of $3 billion in bonds to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute (CPRIT). Last session and this one, he's played a key role in urging lawmakers to pass a statewide indoor workplace smoking ban.
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"A guy ran a 2:03 in the Boston Marathon. I read that article, and thought, I wonder what the press conference after the race was like. We now question a superhuman performance."
"The truth of the matter is, I've been indicted in the media." Armstrong said he's never even received a target letter in a doping investigation.
When Smith asks who's leaking the information, Armstrong says: "I think we know who's leaking..." But won't answer further.
Armstrong: That's a complicated issue. We've gotten into this place where we funded the NCI. We are what we are.
Smith: But circumstances are different now, aren't they?
Armstrong: The disease is not going away. It's a perfect storm. I think there's also a place for big pharma and private business. But I would also, I think the key there is collaboration. Let's not repeat bad science. If we know something doesn't work, let's move on.
Armstrong: You sholud've been on the Altria website. They're smart and they have deep pockets. Their argument in Texas is it's peoples' rights to smoke. That we're stepping on their rights.
Armstrong: I think I'm doing pretty good. I was out at Uchi a little late last night, so I don't feel that great.
Armstrong says nothing at present. "I think they're all very important. It will take all of our time, all of our effort, all of our energy and passion... And great partners in that pink building."
A man asks why insurance companies don't cover smoking cessation treatments.
Armstrong: The way they view certain expenses... is astounding. They view $100,000 open heart surgeries as no big deal. Probably the result of smoking for 35 years. The key there is prevention. If we can intervene in the life of a 15-year-old... I look at that and say, we just cured that person. That's a cancer cure right now."
Armstrong says amazing scientists are moving to Texas because of CPRIT. "You hear stories like that which are national stories, because you're poaching people from other places. That tells you you've done the right thing."
Armstrong: You see the impact of this disease daily... specifically here in Texas. Anytime in our culture, civilization, we face these wars, we invest in the wars. This is maybe not a great time to use a war analogy. But this is a war. Anything that comes along and steals people from you, you have to try and fix."
Armstrong says everyone has a personal connection to the disease. "Everybody in this room. Has it taken anybody? Scared anybody? You always have some sort of connection."
Armstrong: That is a very very controversial thing. We've always supported it. We've supported it in other states. I look at that and see, I've got a few friends with Parkinson's, you see how devastating that disease is. If you could give that friend or that person some relief, I think you have to explore that. And I understand it's a very sensitive subject.
Armstrong: "While we don't feel like we're selling lemonade on the corner... it's all so important. Whether you're raising $10, $1,000, $1 million, it's the people being involved and included and really building that base of support. People look at this disease... what's the problem, why are we still losing all these people. We need people to share their stories, be enlisted in this army of support."
Armstrong: I don't know. We could certainly find out if they work. They do those with drinking and driving, smoking ad with the Marlboro man. They must be testing these messages with their core group to know.
Armstrong: I completely agree. If you talk to Bloomberg, who made New York City smoke-free. The smokers are standing outside. He'll tell you that is one of the biggest deterrents they've seen.