- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lance Armstrong’s legacy

Tom Knott’s column concerning the legacy of Lance Armstrong (“In this era, questions will linger,” Sports, Monday) sheds far more light on the author’s ignorance than it does on his subject’s sport and the place Armstrong has in cycling’s history.

If one bothers to look around the sporting world, one would conclude that cycling is not a “relatively obscure sport” or a sport “whose moment on the global stage is brief,” as Mr. Knott asserts. Cycling is the most popular professional sport in many European and South American countries and is typically the No. 2 professional team sport in countries where it isn’t No. 1. So much for cycling’s obscurity.

The idea of Mr. Knott comparing Lance Armstrong to Barry Bonds is almost comical. Comparing Major League Baseball’s absurdly lax rules, weak penalties and slipshod testing protocols regarding performance-enhancing drugs to cycling’s unmatched rules, penalties and protocols is akin to comparing a bicycle built in 1875 to Mr. Armstrong’s 2005 Tour de France cycle.

Apparently, Mr. Knott failed to notice that Armstrong was tested every day he wore the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour de France (each day of each year he led the race).

Further, Armstrong, like all other professional cyclists, was subjected to random testing during the racing season and throughout the off-season. This tough-as-nails policy means Armstrong frequently was awakened in the middle of the night by the “drug police” at his residences and in hotel rooms around the world. Let’s see the National Football League or MLB try on that policy for size.

Finally, the central criticism of Armstrong in the world sporting press is that he didn’t compete in all of cycling’s great events throughout the lengthy season.

Instead, post-cancer, Armstrong husbanded his energy and focused it on a handful of races, reaching a crescendo of world-beating form at the Tour de France each July since 1999. In proper context, his streak of seven Tour wins is not an “unthinkable record”; it is, to paraphrase the greatest cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx, a tribute to proper team planning, perfect physical preparation and smart strategy.



Don’t appease Mugabe’s criminal regime

As your Tuesday editorial “Mugabe and the United Nations” explains, the United Nations last week issued a “scathing” report denouncing the Zimbabwe government’s ruthless destruction of the “homes or livelihoods of 700,000 poor Zimbabweans.” Amid this worldwide condemnation, Zimbabwe’s president of 25 years, Robert Mugabe, arrived in China, where on Tuesday he and Chinese President Hu Jintao signed agreements on economic cooperation — and on cooperation between their departments of justice.

On July 20, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act saying that the State Department should allow Taiwan’s president, vice president and ministers of foreign affairs and defense to visit the United States. They have been barred from doing so out of deference to China, which insists they not be permitted in this country.

The connection?

If China wishes to welcome a “thuggish dictator,” that is its right as a sovereign nation, and the United States should not interfere. Conversely, if the United States wishes to welcome a democratically elected leader, that is our right as a sovereign nation, and China should not interfere.


Executive director

Association on Third World Affairs


Your forthright editorial rightly asserts that Zimbabwe’s dictator of 25 years should be held accountable for his crimes against his people. Mr. Mugabe is perhaps the most corrupt of a dozen or more corrupt leaders in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet he continues to blame the plight of his people on “neocolonialism.”

How to deliver the people of Zimbabwe from their protracted misery? Because Mr. Mugabe has destroyed all domestic channels of protest — the press, opposition groups, etc., the only effective leverage is external.

To deliver the Zimbabwean people from their bondage, Britain, the United States and other democratic states should withdraw diplomatic recognition and cease any financial or developmental aid directly or through the United Nations, with the promise that such aid would be resumed when a new government is in place. This is strong medicine that may temporarily hurt the long-suffering people, but it would provide the promise of a better future.


Chevy Chase

Not just another actor

It was with sadness that I read of the death of James M. Doohan (Scotty of “Star Trek”) last week (“Nobles and knaves,” Editorial, Saturday). His passing was not unexpected, given his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease last year and his declining health, but one always mourns the death of a generous soul. Mr. Doohan is listed as the Noble of the week, and I readily agree with that accolade. His service in World War II and his wounds on D-Day would be reasons enough for honor. If one reasonably assumes Mr. Doohan, as a professional actor, aspired to fame from something more substantial than a supporting role in a three-season television series, he also can be commended for embracing with gusto the role in which fate cast him.

I would like to add another reason to list him among the Nobles. In September 1983, one of Crystal City’s hotels was hosting an annual comic-book and science-fiction convention. Mr. Doohan was a featured guest. At the time, I was a regular fixture at Bill & Denise Johnson’s comic-book shop on Route 1 in Alexandria. Eight of us “denizens” from that shop reserved a room at the hotel because it would enable us to relax periodically and give us a safe place to store our convention purchases.

When the first day’s events ended, we went for an early dinner in the hotel cafe. A while later, to our surprise, Mr. Doohan walked in for a meal there. After some discussion, one in our group mustered the courage to invite Mr. Doohan to a small party we were going to have in our room later that evening. He thanked us, saying he would see what he could do and asked what room and what time. By 10 p.m., we were recounting the day’s events and assumed that “Scotty” had had other commitments and had simply been polite to us in his response. However, at 10:45, there was a knock at the door. To our amazement, there stood Mr. Doohan. He said our offer of beer and chips had “sounded pretty good” to him.

For the next two hours, James Doohan sat and talked with us, not as a convention speaker or an actor to his fans (which we certainly were) but almost as an uncle. He spoke of his hobbies, which included gardening; his days with the Royal Canadian Air Force; D-Day; his start as an actor and working with other actors; and life in general. He inquired about us and our hobbies, plans and experiences. It was well after midnight when we all realized the time. Because Mr. Doohan was to be speaking at the convention the next day, he thanked us for our hospitality (and, as I recall, three beers), wished all of us well and took his leave.

Although I cannot recall every detail of those magical two hours, what is still crystal clear to me is the generosity of the man. Clearly, he could have spent his time otherwise: with friends or at an upscale area club, where he surely would have been welcomed, or even catching up on sleep after a long first day at the convention. Instead, he chose to spend it with a group of late-teenage and early-twentysomething fans. It was behavior that stands in stark contrast to that of too many of today’s “prima donna” celebrities. It’s an occasion I hope never to forget.

Thank you, Mr. Doohan. May you rest in peace and may your star always shine bright on that walkway in the sky.





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