Two time Tour de France champion Laurent Fignon has confirmed that he has been diagnosed with advanced intestinal cancer.
“My cancer is an advanced cancer because it has metastasized,” the 48-year-old Fignon said in an interview to be broadcast on French television on Sunday. “We know for certain it’s in the pancreas and we don’t know the rest. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I am optimistic. I am going to fight and I am sure I can win the battle.”
Fignon said he began treatment as soon as the diagnosis was confirmed.
“I am undergoing chemotherapy already and have been for 15 days,” he said. “I did the second session a few days ago. Things are going pretty well, I feel good. Right now, I don’t know more than you. Everything is going well.”
Fignon recorded the interview to publicize his forthcoming book, “We were young and unconcerned.”
Fignon won the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984 and holds the distinction of having lost the Tour by the narrowest margin in history, when he finished second to American Greg LeMond, losing the three-week race by just eight seconds. Fignon also won the 1989 Giro d’Italia and Milan-San Remo in both 1988 and 1989.
Fignon answered frankly when the interviewer on the “7 a 8” program asked if there might have been a connection between his past doping practices and this illness.
“I will not say it did not play a role,” he said. “I just don’t know. At this point, it’s impossible to say yes or no. According to my doctors, apparently not. I discussed my personal history quite frankly and they said that would be too simple an explanation.
“Digestive cancer is primarily a disease of nutrition. The products I took were intramuscular, they didn’t pass through the stomach. So, no, if all the cyclists who doped would later have cancer, then everyone would have cancer … Whether those who lived through 1998, when a lot of extreme things happened, will get cancer after 10 or 20 years, I really can’t say.”
Fignon won the Critérium International in 1982 and was widely hailed as the next great French hope as the career of Bernard Hinault was beginning to fade. Hinault, who underwent knee surgery earlier in the year, did not start the 1983 Tour and his 22-year-old Renault-Elf-Gitane teammate took over the role of team leader in the first Tour of his career.
After handily defeating race leader Pascal Simon by more than three minutes over the course of a short 15.6km time trial, Fignon grabbed the maillot jaune two days later. He remains the youngest Tour winner in the Post-WWII era.
He repeated his victory in 1984, defeating Hinault, who had returned to racing, but made the switch to the new La Vie Claire team with LeMond, another Renault-Elf lieutenant.
Since retiring from the sport, Fignon has played an active role in cycling, serving as the organizer of Paris-Nice, until that race was purchased in 2004 by ASO, and Paris-Corrèze.