On giving with one hand and taking with the other…

by wfgodbold

RIP, Neil Armstrong.

The moon missions were NASA’s greatest triumph for many years (though they might be eclipsed by Curiosity); the Apollo program ran for roughly four years, and the agency has parlayed those early triumphs into 40+ years of taxpayer-funded largesse.*

One generation grew up with the iconic image of man playing golf on the moon.

The next generation got to watch the horrific results of incompetence live on national TV.

And the generation after that is lucky enough to see us pay Russia so we can get into orbit at all.

If this continues, we’ll be lucky if 2030 doesn’t see us climbing out of our underground lairs to feast on the unsuspecting Eloi.

Anyway, big government gave space and the moon to man. It’s taken some time, but the private sector is catching up (hopefully this is just the beginning).

Another Armstrong was not so fortunate, however.

Lance Armstrong, cyclist and cancer defeater, can now add a new epithet: USADA Whipping Boy.

Apparently, the government, in its limitless power (hooray for the commerce clause!), saw fit to establish a bureaucracy to oversee sports doping. And that august body has condemned Lance Armstrong, and wants to strip him of his many Tour de France titles (as well as ban him from cycling for life!) for daring to pass every drug test they made him take.

There are three possibilities I can see:

1. Lance Armstrong cheated, faking all 500+ (!) of his drug tests, and his wins are meaningless;

2. Lance Armstrong developed some otherwise undiscovered doping method, and swore his entire retinue to secrecy, allowing him to cheat with impunity, rendering his wins meaningless; or

3. Lance Armstrong is a training fanatic, and made himself over into the best cyclist in the world for as long as he could (through some combination of training and genetic predisposition).

If it’s #1, then the USADA is incompetent; how could they have failed to catch Armstrong even once over his entire career (spanning more than a decade); and if they’re that incompetent, why should we believe them about anything else?

If it’s #2, then Armstrong should quit his cycling gigs and take over national security; keeping one’s mouth shut is an important skill in intelligence.

And if it’s #3, then no matter how many people the USADA gets to testify, or how many tests they run on Armstrong’s old samples, they’ll never discover any evidence of cheating.

(Of course, that’s even assuming the USADA has the authority to strip Armstrong of his titles; France may tell them to go to hell.)

If Armstrong’s titles were revoked, who would take his place as the “winner” of the Tour for those years?

Not the next several cyclists; they were all doping.

Now, I don’t particularly care one way or the other about drug use in sports. If the sport makes everyone agree to the rules, and the rules say “no doping,” then sure, kick people out for doping. But if a sport were to allow doping, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

After all, if everyone is doping, then you probably get to see the same relative skill disparity among the competitors (it’s only the absolute skill level that is increased); and in a sport like cycling, where you’re not racing the clock so much as you are the other cyclists, only the relative skill difference matters.

That’s enough meandering for now; one Armstrong (Neil) benefited from big government; another (Lance) did not.

That it was emphasized this past weekend is coincidental.

*I’m not saying that good tings haven’t come from the space program; far from it. After all, it helped bankrupt the USSR, freeing Russia and her satellite states allies from totalitarian rule for what, ten years?

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