A lot of travelling this weekend so I was able to immerse myself in news. Two of the big stories – Neil Armstrong’s death and Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace – touch two areas I am passionate about, cycling and space exploration. And what a contrast. Firstly Neil Armstrong – the quiet, modest, pilot and astronaut. Much has been said about his technical genius in landing on the moon with very little fuel left, his ability to calculate and improvise. Not much has been written about the spiritual impact it had on the astronauts. All highly trained technicians and scientists. When they gazed back at the earth in space it gave them a new sense of appreciation of how beautiful, wonderful and delicate the Planet Earth is. They were to return as changed men, men of stronger faith. Armstrong’s companion Buzz Aldrin shared communion with him discreetly after landing on the moon – click here. There is also the beautiful story of how Armstrong, when he returned, was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.“These are the steps that lead to the temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.” Armstrong then asked Ben-Dov if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed. “So Jesus stepped right here,” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov. To which Armstrong replied, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.”
In contrast. Lance Armstrong, who achieved an unthinkable 7 Tour de France titles, has had them stripped this weekend. Like many I was inspired by his comeback from cancer, his amazing book, ‘It’s not about the Bike’ and also his superb Live Strong foundation. Of course you are disappointed when the extent of the use of banned drugs becomes evident, it is simply cheating. But I would still have retained admiration for Armstrong. However what has come to light this weekend is the incredible control he exercised over a network of former team mates, assistants and reporters. His tacit admission of guilt has freed many witnesses and journalists to be able to speak without fear of retribution. The extent of the legal bullying that went on, the career destroying, the defamation of any whistle blowers, the pressure put on so many to collude in the cheating is incredible. This ruthlessness and the single-minded determination is not glorious it is shameful. And what a contrast to his quiet fellow countryman who had a lot more to shout about.