The Ride of His Life
After stunning the cycling cosmos in 1993 by winning the world road race championship in Oslo at age 21, Lance Armstrong was invited to meet the king of Norway. When Armstrong learned that the invitation did not include his mother, who was traveling with him, he angrily declined. Said the audacious young Texan, "You don't check your mother at the door."
It is this brashness, coupled with immense talent, that has made Armstrong such a compelling performer. His trademark tenacity will be crucial as he confronts the challenge of his life. Last week Armstrong, America's premier road cyclist, revealed he has testicular cancer, which has spread to his abdomen and lungs. On Oct. 2 Armstrong felt severe pain in one of his testicles and coughed up blood. He had been aware of the enlarged testicle for at least three years, but he had never felt any pain. An X-ray revealed the cancer, and a CAT scan confirmed it. The malignant testicle was removed the next day. Armstrong has begun 12 weeks of chemotherapy.
Armstrong can draw encouragement from the examples of St. Louis Cardinals infielder Mike Gallego, former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Kruk and miler Steve Scott, all of whom are in good health after having had cancerous testicles removed. The recovery rate for this type of cancer is estimated at 97%. And even though Armstrong's has spread, doctors put his chances of recovery at 65% to 85%.
In the days since Armstrong's announcement, cycling cognoscenti have been buzzing with speculation that performance-enhancing drugs, long a shadowy part of competitive cycling, might have played a role in Armstrong's illness. Armstrong himself, who has never tested positive or in any way been implicated in drug use, has not addressed the question, and Dr. Gary I. Wadler of Cornell, an expert on athletes and drugs, says there is "no evidence" linking drugs and testicular cancer.
The most encouraging aspect of Armstrong's announcement was his clear determination to beat the cancer. "I might have a bald head and might not be as fast," says Armstrong, "but I'll be out there. I'm going to race again."
No Heavy Lifting
Four former batboys for the Detroit Tigers have filed a federal lawsuit charging that the team exploited them. The boys, who worked for the Tigers between 1990 and '96, charge that, among other things, they were made to work long hours without overtime pay. Neither side will comment with the suit still pending. But considering the way the Tigers, who were last in the American League in hitting, used their lumber this season, it's clear that no Detroit bat-boys have been overworked lately.
A Bomb Drops on Baseball
Last week the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks signed free-agent first baseman Travis Lee to a four-year, $10 million deal, which included a $5 million signing bonus. And a couple of dozen big league general managers grabbed their throats. After all, baseball—unlike the NFL and the NBA—isn't used to handing out megadollars to players before they even set foot in a pro locker room.
Lee, 21, is a former San Diego State star who hit .385 with one home run and seven RBIs with the U.S. Olympic team last summer. The commissioner's office declared him a free agent in August after the Minnesota Twins, who had made him the second pick in the June draft, failed to tender a formally executed contract within 15 days of the draft.
Why didn't they? The Twins, and many other teams, were not familiar with the 15-day rule, which was passed after the 1990 season by the Player Relations Committee but not, according to some teams, adequately communicated to them. Still, Major League Rule Number 4(e) does appear in the Professional Baseball Rules Book, so teams did have access to it, just as agents did. It's another example of a rudderless baseball ship crashing on the shoals.