Kristin, Neil and Lance Armstrong
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
THREE Americans surnamed Armstrong made headlines in the world last month. The first one was a cyclist named Kristin Armstrong who contributed one of the 46 gold medals that United States garnered during the London Olympic Games (July 27-August 12). Kristin, the gold medallist in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games set Olympic history by defending her individual-time-trial tiara in the London Games, the first and only female cyclist to do so. Born on August 11, 1973, the five-foot-eight Memphis, Tennessee-born Kristin (no relation to seven-time Tour de France (TdF) champion Lance Armstrong whose wife is also named Kristin) was just 10 days short of turning 39 when she won her second gold in the quadrennial meet. A former triathlete and now mother with one child, Kristin is the oldest athlete in the London Games to bag a gold medal.
Second to catch my attention last week was the death of former astronaut Neil Armstrong. The aeronautical engineer Neil made headlines all over the world on July 20, 1969 when he became the first man to step and walked on the ground of the moon, flying there through the famous spaceship “Apollo11”, the first manned lunar landing mission. Born on August 5, 1930, the Wapakoneta, Ohio native Neil was also an athletic-minded fellow. Horse-riding and golf were his favourite sports, aside from ice hockey, basketball and football. Well, I guess, you should get into sports to be really fit to go into space. I believe that’s one of the basic requirements of NASA to become an astronaut. Unfortunately, he died last August 25 at the age of 82, just fifteen days after his birthday due to complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. His famous words “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” will never be forgotten, especially in this generation of high technologies and electronic sophistication.
Third news that stunned me last Sunday was the case of seven-time TdF champion Lance Armstrong, who suddenly resurrected and made sports headlines again, over his alleged use of artificial stimulant that pivotally propelled him to seven consecutive victories, a record in the TdF. And what was ironic was that it was his own country America, with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) at the helm, reporting that the elite professional cyclist from Austin, Texas is a drug cheat, used the EPO banned substance and recommended to the world governing body UCI and the Amaury Sports Organization that runs the TdF, to strip Lance of his 1999 to 2005 TdF titles. USADA, headed by its chief executive Travis Tygart, said its evidence came from more than a dozen witnesses who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their first hand experience and knowledge of the doping activity of Lance’s cycling team. The unidentified witnesses said they know or had been told by Armstrong himself that he had used EPO to enhance his cycling power, allowing him to break the five-time TdF record established by four riders, namely Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault of France, Eddy Merckx of Belgium and Miguel Indurain of Spain. In short, so far, there’s no physical evidence and just a “witch hunt” by USADA.
Let me tell you folks that in any UCI sanctioned event like the TdF, Tour of Italy, Tour of Spain and even the 1997 and 1998 Marlboro Tour to name a few, all riders are subjected to international drug rules and mandated to a drug test everyday, especially if you are the stage winner and the yellow-jersey wearer. The anti-doping agency of the Tour is particularly focused on these winning riders and if you fail the test in any of the day’s race, for sure you’ll be disqualified and will be suspended for a minimum of two years or a maximum of life. And although there was an allegation after his fourth conquest of the TdF that he’s using a banned substance, Armstrong passed the test a lot of times and continued to race for many more years especially in European big races. My question is why did USDA rule only now, after seven years, when Armstrong already retired as a cyclist, that he is guilty of doping. Is it because of the witnesses that cropped up only now and who are obviously envious of him? Some people say it’s a sabotage against Armstrong. That could be true and I’ll buy that. As expected, Armstrong denied the allegation and declined to pursue an appeal if found guilty because he said he’s already tired of this issue which is baseless and unfounded. And we cannot blame him if he will not pursue the case because expectedly he has to spend a lot of money to pay a lawyer just to appeal the ruling. Let the world cycling aficionados give their verdict and not only from a very few people comprising the USADA and its minions. But to me, guilty or not, I will still consider him as the seven-time TdF champion and the greatest cyclist that TdF had ever produced. Amen.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” JOHN 3: 19-21