Lance Armstrong: ‘The Brightest People’ Would ‘Accelerate’ Federal Spending on Health Research

By Nicholas Ballasy | March 25, 2011 | 12:36 PM EDT

( - Professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, expressing opposition to the Republicans' proposed cut to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, said the “brightest people” in America would argue that we need to accelerate spending on cancer research.

Lance Armstrong (AP Photo/Thao Nguyen)

“Now is not the time to back down and I think that the, if you collected the brightest people in this country and put them in one room, they would tell you that now is the time we actually need to accelerate things,” said Armstrong during a press conference at the National Press Club sponsored by the American Cancer Society on Tuesday.

The panelists said they oppose the House Republicans proposed 5.2% cut to the NIH budget and support President Obama’s original budget proposal.

In his remarks, Armstrong referenced a question he was asked during an interview in Washington.

“The gentlemen asked us, he said, ‘what would you say to the American people or to our leaders on why we shouldn’t cut back or why we need to increase funding? I said it’s very simple – 600,000 deaths a year. I can’t say that any clearer. I can’t be any more direct – 1,500 Americans every day lose their lives to this disease,” said Armstrong, the founder of Livestrong and a cancer survivor.

“Imagine if that was something that we didn’t know about yesterday and came along today and all of a sudden just started clicking off 1,500 Americans every single day, we would not be cutting back. It wouldn’t be an issue. In fact, we would be doubling and tripling and quadrupling our efforts.” asked Armstrong, “The White House has data that shows that federal spending on health research and training more than doubled in the past decade from $15.9 billion in 2000 to $36.1 billion this year. When the U.S. faces a $14 trillion debt and we’ve already seen these massive spending increases in the past, are you saying that even a little bit of a cut is unacceptable?”

He responded, “I was referring to a hypothetical disease that came along over night that all of a sudden starting killing 1,500 Americans every day. We would see funding out of nowhere that would diminish anything we’re talking about today but unfortunately like Tracey said. I think, I wasn’t suggesting that instead of cutting things by 5% we should double it or triple it or quadruple it. That was sort of a fictitious disease in terms of how our country would panic if something like that came along,” he said.

Armstrong continued, “Our organizations hear these stories where someone says listen, I lost my grandmother last week to lung cancer, 85 years old, 84 years old, she lived a great life and she wasn’t, she didn’t want to fight and go through chemotherapy and end her life in pain like that but you could argue that she should have lived to 100. People come along and say Grandpa died at 75 of prostate cancer, he had a great life, I say BS, I mean the guy could have lived to be 95 and he could have seen 10 more grandkids and seen some graduations and gone on a few more vacations.”