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A doctor who treated Lance Armstrong when he had cancer says the cyclist has done more good than harm in his career. / J. Scott Applewhite, AP

Lance Armstrong is forever branded a lying cheater, and you're done with him. Or is it that simple? No. And it never will be, as long as there is cancer to beat.

Let the doctor who helped Armstrong survive advanced testicular cancer tell you about his world.

``We still have patients who, when starting chemotherapy for testicular cancer, come in carrying that (Armstrong autobiography) book,'' Dr. Lawrence Einhorn said over the phone Thursday. ``It's like someone religious carrying a Bible to help them through a very difficult period of time.''

Let him tell you about what he hears in his office, from people who need inspiration to get them through the fear.

``Virtually 100% of my cancer patients all feel that he has done far more good than any damage he's done.''

Let him tell you about the mixed bag that will always be Lance Armstrong; a quandary perhaps only fully understand by those who have faced cancer. If a man helps them endure some of the darkest days of their lives, they won't turn on him because of how he won a bicycle race.

``If he didn't do doping, he would not have been competitive in his sport,'' Einhorn said. ``There would have been no foundation. There would have been no cancer survivorship talk, if he had not entered the Tour de France, or finished 17th or 18th. It doesn't mean that the ends justify the means.''

But it's a dilemma?

``Exactly.''

``I've always told him for many, many years that his legacy is going to be his legacy as a cancer survivor and what he's meant to the cancer community.''

Care for an irony? Drs. Einhorn and Craig Nichols were the doctors who treated Armstrong in the 1990s. Einhorn is still at the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. Nichols has moved, but was in town Thursday.

On the same day the Oprah Winfrey interview would be broadcast and, by most accounts, kill the Armstrong name forever, the two doctors who once saved his life had lunch together.

They talked of how sad this story had become, and how important Armstrong has been. ``You want your heroes to have firm foundations, and not to have feet of clay,'' Einhorn said. By the way, Einhorn's title at the Indiana University medical school: Lance Armstrong Foundation professor of oncology.

Any mixed feelings about that now?

``None whatsoever.''

Einhorn, an avid sports fan with season tickets to the Colts and Indiana University, has never followed cycling. ``Not my cup of tea.''

He last saw Armstrong in 2011, at Armstrong's 40th birthday party.

He wasn't sure he was going to watch the Winfrey interview Thursday night.

``I'm not sure I'm going to hear anything that is revelatory. My wife says, `You have to watch it.' I don't know. I'll probably tune in.''

And he is concerned that the debris from the implosion of Armstrong's name might somehow hurt contributions to the fight against cancer. ``Most people, especially in this economic climate, don't need an incentive not to give to a charitable cause.''

But he is as sure now as he has ever been that in the end, Lance Armstrong will be known for something besides disgrace, and one of the most stunning falls in sports history.

``Obviously it's going to permanently tarnish his reputation as a ``sports hero.'' But it's not going to tarnish his reputation as what he's done for the cancer community,'' Einhorn said.

``There are many different ways that people are heroic. Lance cheated in the sport, but because he cheated in the sport, he became a hero to countless thousands if not tens of thousands of people, and made such a big difference in their lives and also in their quantity of survival as well as their quality of survival. That will be his legacy.''

Even if it didn't sound that way Thursday night.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Lance Armstrong cancer doctor has no mixed feelings

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