Armstrong focused on cancer fight

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His tie had stripes of yellow and his right wrist was adorned with a LIVESTRONG band, but that was about as close as Lance Armstrong was willing to get to his former sport Wednesday when he made a brief appearance at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Armstrong spent part of the afternoon meeting with Jon Huntsman Sr., touring his hospital and meeting with members of the media.

Perfect time, I thought, to get the seven-time winner of the Tour de France to give us his views on the current state of cycling, maybe vent about the ban of his former teammates and team director Johan Bruyneel from the 2008 Tour de France or maybe find out if Utah's winding canyon roads made him want to get back on the bike.

Interesting topics to discuss for some, but not for Armstrong.

He showed a little glimmer of his famous competitiveness when he walked in the room and spied a runner stretching outside of the window. Armstrong pulled the shade aside and watched for a few seconds, long enough to make me wonder if he was contemplating challenging the guy to a sprint. Then he turned his back on the runner, settled into a chair next to Huntsman and focused his attention on the challenge of fighting cancer.

"Johan e-mailed me the other day and I needed a crash course in what is going on," Armstrong said of the current controversy that has Bruyneel's team, Astana, banned from the upcoming Tour. "Not to disrespect cycling, but I've completely shifted my focus. My focus now is on this disease that affects millions of Americans every year."

He is still competitive, but it's about the disease that once threatened his life, not about the bike anymore.

"What I'm engaged in, I'm fighting this the most efficient and successful way I can," he said. "And it requires my full effort."

His fight now is not on mountain roads or in time trials, but in treatment rooms. The hills and mountains outside that once probably would have beckoned him to beat them? He barely noticed them, except from the patients' point of views.

"People in the infusion room are sitting out, looking over the mountains, the grass, moose and hills and it's hard to quantify and measure that stuff," he said in explaining what he liked about the Huntsman Institute. "But there is this thing called quality of life; it's a powerful thing and it helps."

By dominating on the bike, Armstrong took a lot from his competitors and rarely showed compassion in doing so. It's what made him great. But he's better now as a person, away from what made him famous and battling a challenge by giving rather than taking.

"What they want to do is share their story and talk about their diagnosis or disease," Armstrong said of cancer patients he had met. "My job is to accept that. It's an hour of your time or whatever. That is what they want. I don't have the magic potion, but sometimes giving of your time is enough."



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Following Dirk Nowitzki's flagrant foul of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, the reigning MVP was suspended by the league for one game. Did the punishment fit the crime?

a) It was just right. Though there wasn't any malice on Nowitzki's part, the play was bad enough to warrant a response.

b) It was too harsh. The refs didn't think it even warranted an ejection, so league execs were wrong to impose a suspension.

c) It wasn't harsh enough. Considering the play has caused Kirilenko to miss several games, the league should have imposed upon Nowitzki an absence roughly equal to that of Kirilenko's.

After three losses in their last six games heading into this week - head-scratchers against the Clippers and T-wolves, and a blowout by the Hornets - how will the Jazz finish the season?

a) Still going far. As they proved against the Pistons, they can beat the best even when they don't play their best. 53.2%

b) One and done. They may win their division, but they're unlikely to get home-court advantage. And since they're not quite as good on the road as at home . . . 44%

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