Laurent Fignon has revealed that for the past 15 days he’s been receiving chemotherapy treatment to battle intestinal cancer; which the former two-time Tour de France winner says is in an advanced state.

In a French television interview; the 48-year-old one-time idol of French cycling who won the race consecutively in 1983-84; said he had commenced treatment immediately after diagnosis.

“My cancer is an advanced cancer, and since it has already spread, it is almost certainly involving the pancreas. Therefore I do not know how long I have to live. One cannot say what will happen, but I am optimistic. I’m going to fight, and I will succeed in winning this fight.”

In making his shock announcement, Fignon needs to look no further than Lance Armstrong’s against the odds recovery, when at just 25 he was struck down by an aggressive form of testicular cancer that also spread to other parts of his body including his lungs and brain. Depending on which source you believe, his odds of survival were estimated as low as 2% but were more like 40%. His recovery was made even more incredible by his unprecedented subsequent seven Tour de France wins.

Ordinarily when cancer spreads to the pancreas it’s game up; which is why the medical condition of Apple founder Steve Jobs arouses so much conjecture with stories floating around that he has been reportedly fighting pancreatic cancer since 2004.

Today, Armstrong on and off the bike and through his Live Strong cancer foundation, is the talisman for all cancer victims; even if there is a voluble lobby within France and certain sections of media and fellow professionals convinced his victories are tainted by chemical “assists”. When he does finally retire and although he may have no positive dope test besides his name, conspiracy theories will continue to abound because for many, Armstrong’s super-human efforts can never be innocent.

Fignon’s cancer is bound to reignite debate about the potential grave medical consequences from the taking of performance enhancing drugs. It’s a fact of life in major professional sports in North America, but notably in the NFL and baseball; the incidence of cancer and other life threatening ailments afflicting the lives of athletes who had been on “the juice” is higher.

As it transpires with perhaps a coincidental touch of grand guignol, Fignon is about to reveal in a new book Nous étions jeunes et insouciants (We were young and carefree); his use of performance enhancing drugs; although he is now dismissing the possibility of a link between doping and his cancer. Adding that while he had been totally candid in detailing to his doctors his use of cortisone and amphetamines; they considered it too simplistic to blame his condition on his doping.

Armstrong delivered his own Twitter note on hearing the news. “Sad news, I hope there are some good prospects for treatment.”

You can read more at Velonews.