Quadranting is sure that it won’t be long before someone more high-profile than he draws attention to the connection between performance-stretching drugs and heroes/antiheroes named Armstrong.
Fallen hero Lance denies using any when he scaled the peaks of pro cycling. Deceased hero Neil certainly carried them with him to the moon as part of his official astronaut’s kit.
Obviously there’s a difference. The use of drugs like dexedrine by pilots and astronauts is officially sanctioned as a way of keeping them going in times of stress (the Apollo 13 crew used their ‘dexies’ to mask the effects of cold and exhaustion during their return to earth).
Lance Armstrong also allegedly used drugs or blood doping to cheat his natural limitations. But in his case, the official sanction was against the use of artificial stimulants so this week his star fell just 48 hours before Neil’s ascended to it’s permanent place in America’s panoply of all time superheroes.
Still, this timely tale of two Armstrongs neatly illustrates the labyrinthine nuances of good and bad in life and sport. Amphetamines and sport don’t mix: they helped to kill the British rider Tom Simpson during the 1967 Tour. But officially administered uppers played havoc with pilots’ psyches in WW2 and they’ve been implicated in friendly fire incidents in more recent conflicts.
Let’s not forget that the moon missions were just as much a high stakes international race as is the Tour de France. Winning the space race was everything to Americans – just as road cycling was when they thought Lance was clean.
They didn’t mind if the Apollo astronauts took drugs: they were only obeying orders from Mission Control. But if Lance Armstrong took drugs, (he still denies it) it was his own choice.
Ultimately, the role of uppers in the moon missions was not cheating. It was merely a bad example to the rest of us. In the Tour, doping was (is) purely about gaining unfair advantage. That’s why America will spend the next few weeks venerating the memory of one Armstrong and hoping to forget the other one, notwithstanding the millions he raised for charity on the back of the Tour wins that he seems likely to soon be stripped of.