The Armstrongs

The two most famous Armstrongs have both been in the news recently: Neil for dying, and Lance for being banned for life from all sports the USADA has jurisdiction over. The two men led their lives in vastly different ways.

Neil was a fighter pilot, then a test pilot, then an astronaut. All three activities require significant physical courage.

After Neil retired from NASA in 1971, he initially avoided the many offers he had from various corporations to act as their spokesman. He finally relented in 1979, and became a spokesman for Chrysler, partly because he admired their engineering department, and partly just because they were in trouble. After that, he served as a spokesman and director for several other companies, though he refused to work for any non-American firms.

After 1994 Neil stopped giving autographs because he heard that they were being resold for large sums of money. According to Wikipedia, "He also stopped sending out congratulatory letters to new Eagle Scouts, because he believed that these letters should come from people who know the Eagle Scouts personally."

One way Neil probably didn't live his life on the straight and narrow was when it came to women. He met his second wife in 1992, two years before his first wife divorced him. I have to imagine that having been the first man on the moon, along with a certain amount of natural flyboy swagger, made him absolute catnip to the ladies.

Lance has been in the headlines much more than Neil for the past fifteen years. This blog made the case that he is a sociopath back in November of 2010; his recent behavior has been true to form.

As the United States Anti-Doping Agency net has closed around him, Lance has continued to deny all the claims against him. He continually cites the drug tests he passed, accused the USADA of acting unconstitutionally, and filed a countersuit against them trying to prevent them from proceeding. But early Friday morning he gave up his right to arbitration. The USADA reportedly had over ten former teammates, trainers and doctors ready to testify against him, and had recent blood samples which were "consistent with doping."

Lance was self-righteous to the end, saying, "there comes a time in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now. The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today -- finished with this nonsense."

No mea culpas, no feelings of embarrassment that he has finally been caught, no sense of guilt that he might have deprived a clean athlete of his moment of glory. Just the anger that the constitutionally guiltless feel when accused of something they are guilty of.

Both Armstrongs were American icons. Only one stood up to close scrutiny, however.