Armstrong is a hero no matter what

by Kenneth Leonard

MCT Campus

Look, folks. Neil Arm- strong is one of the greatest American heroes of all- time. His intrepid spirit was an inspiration to untold millions, as he demonstrated the potential we, as humans, have if we reach for the stars. Or the moon, whatever.

This is why it’s time for a serious discussion about the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Whatever your stance is on the ethics of performance-enhancing drugs, we can all agree the hyperbolic rhetoric surrounding the debate on enhanced human performance isn’t serving any positive purpose.

I’ve been loosely following the news lately, with classes starting up and everything, and apparently the USADA has decided to post- humously strip Neil Armstrong of his NASA Tour de Luna cycling medals. I didn’t even know they had those, but that’s not even the point. The deeper issue at hand isn’t that complicated and can be sorted out using a little common sense.

What is the objection to per-formance enhancement? First, it’s important to know exactly what we’re talking about in this instance. The USADA is critical of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s alleged blood doping and steroid use. Blood doping is the practice of boosting the red blood cell count in an athlete or astronaut in hopes of increasing aerobic activity. And steroids, as we all know, make people hit home runs (like Barry Bonds) or make people’s heads get really super big (like Barry Bonds).

The USADA tests athletes and astronauts for various banned stimulants and ste- roids, as evidence of blood doping, in hopes of maintain- ing a level playing field for all participants of various events, such as Apollo missions and cycling.

The playing field is far from level in any sporting (or space-related) event, however. Professional athletes are always looking for that little edge to distinguish themselves from their competitors. This is to be expected. Professional athletes are in a ruthlessly competitive, multibillion dollar industry and performance is their livelihood. It’s completely reasonable to as- sume athletes will bend or break the rules in order to win.

It’s not just steroids, either.

For example in baseball, many pitchers elect to undergo “Tommy John” surgery, where ligaments in the elbow are replaced withstronger tendons from elsewhere in the body, such as the knee or hamstring. This allows athletes to throw harder and pitch faster for extended periods of time with areduced risk of injury. This is not banned by any governing body, but taking steroids is. Where is the sense in that? Dear reader, you and I could take steroids until our heads are the size of watermelons (like Barry Bonds) and it would not increase our ability to hit home runs in the big show.

We could dope our blood for the rest of our lives and train as hard as physically possible, and we wouldn’t win the Tour de France or land on the moon with Buzz Aldrin. Performance enhancers do exactly what the name implies. They enhance the awesome abilities of world-class athletes so they can keep doing amazing things. As a fan, I believe I deserve the best professional athletes modern science and pharmaceuticals can provide.

The bottom line is, Lance Armstrong should get to keep his medals. Besides, the USADA doesn’t have the author- ity to take away medals they didn’t give out in the first place. Furthermore, it’s important to remember Armstrong has never testedpositive for any performance enhancing drugs.

Let’s quit making villains out of American heroes. Guys such as Armstrong are in short supply nowadays.