AUSTIN, TX—Lance Armstrong, the ultra-competitive seven-time Tour de France champion who recently ran the New York Marathon in under three hours, held a press conference Tuesday to announce that he will be taking the next three months to prepare for a rematch against the opponent with whom he is most often identified: cancer.
"I owe it to myself, to my fans, and to cancer's opponents around the world to prove that I can beat this deadly disease once again," said Armstrong, who says he has nothing to fear from once again facing the nemesis that defined him as an athlete. "We took each other to the edge the last time we met in 1996, and you almost ended my career. Even if you have what it takes to face me again, I'm willing to bet everything you still don't have what it takes to bring me down."
Armstrong added that, with all the free time he has had as of late, he has been seeking out cancer everywhere, including the American Cancer Society, the Mayo Clinic, the oncology ward at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and most recently, on the streets of New York City.
"I can't deny that cancer got a piece of me last time," Armstrong said. "A big piece of me. I think about it every day. But once I got done with cancer, it was nowhere to be found. It disappeared. Well, cancer, you know where to find me. I can beat you again in six—no, in three months."
"I want cancer," Armstrong added. "I want cancer so bad I can almost taste it."
Cancer, the much-feared disease that has defeated legendary athletes such as Floyd Patterson, Lyle Alzado, and Walter Payton, is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, and is 0-1 when battling Lance Armstrong. However, Armstrong said he would like to beat cancer more convincingly, saying that the first time he faced off against cancer's flurry of histological attacks, the disease dealt him a "cheap blow below the belt."
"You have to hand it to cancer," Armstrong said. "It snuck up on me and certainly changed my life forever. But this time, through intense physical and mental preparation, I am going to show it what Lance Armstrong is all about."
"It will take dedication, no doubt about it," Armstrong added, noting that he is also committed to sleeping 17 hours a day. "But I live for competition. And everyone who knows me knows that the physical and emotional ordeals I endure are what I thrive on."
The world-class athlete claims he is open to any sort of challenge the disease can offer him, although he hopes this time cancer comes at him in a way that will "really push [him] to the brink."
"I wouldn't mind something like brain or lung [cancer], but I think cancer is going to surprise me with something different like a case of acute lymphocytic leukemia or even something in my pancreas," Armstrong said. "It never hits the same way twice. Either way, I give myself a 100 percent chance of survival."
"I got cancer once," Armstrong added, gesturing defiantly towards the cameras. "I bet I can get it twice as good this time."
Armstrong has already come under criticism from sportswriters and epidemiologists who say that Armstrong is attempting to relive his glory days.
"Lance is a proud man, and no one doubts him for a second, but this cancer thing is just eating away at his insides," said University of Texas epidemiologist Graham Heatherington, who trained Armstrong for his first bout with cancer in 1996. "I think by taking on cancer again, he's trying to tell the world he's not ready to lie down and die just yet."
"What, do you think he's afraid to do what he has to do?" said Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, a longtime Armstrong supporter. "Go on a strict daily regimen of diet and exercise? Shave his head? Get chemotherapy till he throws up and can no longer stand? He's done it once, and we love him for it. You know what? I for one hope he gets cancer again. I hope he gets it good this time."
"It'll be good for the sport," Reilly added.
Although Armstrong's friends and family, especially his mother Linda Armstrong Kelly, wish he would reconsider his decision to battle cancer again, they nonetheless say that they will be there to support him and stick by his bedside until the bitter end.
"Frankly, I don't think he has anything to prove," Kelly said. "I should have known years ago that he would eventually try to get cancer again."
"Hopefully, he beats it," she added.
Armstrong, who has not ruled out injecting himself with known carcinogens if the disease fails to accept his challenge within the next two weeks, denied that he was doing it for publicity.
"My only hope," Armstrong said before concluding the press conference, "is that by once again beating cancer, I can help raise awareness for cancer."