NEW YORK — Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is showing no signs of slowing down with his anticancer crusade.
The cyclist visited the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in Harlem on Thursday to catch up with medical director Harold Freeman, a friend he met through the President’s Cancer Panel.
Dressed in a dark suit with a navy button-down shirt, Armstrong praised Lauren for providing the center’s financial backing. The outpatient diagnostic and treatment facility has a partnership with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and North General Hospital, and is known for its Patient Navigation, a red-tape-cutting service Freeman pioneered. Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering and a Nobel prize winner, pedaled his own bike north for a few words with Armstrong and Freeman.
Referring to Lauren’s $5 million donation to establish the facility, Armstrong said: “I think this was heroic.”
As for any formal plans to work with the designer, he said: “I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy.”
“They make jeans,” one of his assistants piped up.
After a photo shoot for Bristol-Myers, Armstrong headed to Silver Springs, Md., to deliver the keynote speech at a high school graduation. Instead of spending July storming up and down the Alps and the Pyrenees in the Tour, Armstrong plans to be in Los Angeles to be the host of the July 16 ESPY Awards, among other things. The event will benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. His goal is to raise $1 billion for his foundation.
Armstrong, an entrant in this year’s New York City Marathon, said he did not do anything to celebrate last week, when the International Cycling Union released a report clearing him of doping charges in the 1999 tour. “It was obviously a relief. I have to say it wasn’t a surprise to me. That’s what happens when you do a comprehensive 132-page report by an unbiased third-party person.”
At the end of July, he will lead a different kind of ride, a seven-day recreational bicycle race across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI. This year’s event will be earlier than any other that has been in an election year, Armstrong said. On the road, he plans to “get the cancer question and put it out there” through town hall-type meetings. “A disease as deadly as cancer is — why is that not a question for candidates?” he said.
Asked if he ever thinks about running for office, Armstrong said: “Every day — I say, ‘No thanks.'”
But the Nike poster boy insisted his mission is to rally the grassroots movement and ultimately make cancer a campaign issue. Noting that 60 million people have bought the Nike-made “Livestrong” yellow wristbands, Armstrong said: “That’s some percentage of the population that is buying them because we care.”
The way he sees it, even a portion of those yellow band buyers could help focus attention on cancer and put it on the political agenda. “Even if we took 5 percent of those people, we’d still have a huge population of potential voters,” he said.