Mr. Vale, 40, grew up in Whitestone, Queens. He excelled on the handball court, in neighborhood pool halls, and on the drums in his church band. But his real forte was as an arm-wrestler. He captured city, state, national and world titles throughout the 1980s and ’90s.
He also beat cancer. Twice, doctors told him that he had fatal tumors. And twice, he survived. The second time, he refused radiation and chemotherapy in lieu of an alternative treatment consisting of eating apricot seeds. The seeds have laetrile, which some people consider an alternative cancer-fighting agent — and the government considers a fraud.
Federal Food and Drug Administration officials warn that not only are the seeds not a cancer cure, but that they may contain harmful amounts of cyanide. Agency officials accused Mr. Vale of profiting from desperate cancer victims, and in 2000 got a court injunction to stop him from selling the seeds as a cure. Mr. Vale changed his marketing and had relatives handle the seeds, but he was arrested and, in 2003, convicted of criminal contempt of the injunction and sentenced to five years at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
An Arm-Wrestler’s ‘Over-the-Top’ Journey
“I want to be No. 1 again, not for myself, but as part of my mission to show the world the power of apricot seeds,” he said recently at his house in Bellerose Manor, Queens.
Mr. Vale is up against an old foe again. He has a tumor in his kidney for which he is refusing standard medical treatment in lieu of the apricot seeds.