Nike has terminated its long-standing ties with Lance Armstrong due to the “insurmountable evidence” that he participated in doping and misled the sportswear business “for more than a decade.”
The move comes in the wake of damning allegations from US doping chiefs that the former champion cyclist was a “serial cheat” and at the centre of the “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme the sport has ever seen.”
Nike said in a statement: “Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner”.
The company adds that it would continue to support the 41-year old American’s Livestrong charity. Armstrong helped set up the charity after recovering from cancer in 1996. The charity has gone on to raise over $470m (£292m) for cancer research, in part through the sale of its branded footwear and clothing.
Armstrong also stepped down as chairman of the charity earlier today (17 October). In a farewell statement he said: “It has been a great privilege to help grow it from a dream into an organisation that today has served 2.5 million people and helped spur a cultural shift in how the world views cancer survivors. This organisation, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart.”
Nike has ‘vehemently denied’ allegations that it was aware of the doping-programme. The denial comes after the New York Daily News reported that the company paid $500,000 (£309,000) to the former president of the world cycling governing body Unione Cycliste International (UCI) Hein Verbruggen to cover up a positive Armstrong drugs test.
Sponsorship experts have told Marketing Week that Nike and Armstrong’s other major sponsors would only cut ties when with the star when there was unequivocal proof of wrong-doing.
Armstrong, who has already been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, has always denied taking banned substances.
Oakley, another of Armstrong’s sponsors, says it is reviewing the report from the USADA and its sponsorship of the athlete.
“As we have stated in the past, Oakley does not approve in any way the use of illegal substances for enhancing performance in sports. Our policy with our athletes is to support them until proven guilty by the highest governing body of sport or court of law. We are reviewing the extensive report from the USADA, as well as our relationship with Lance, and will await final decision-making by the International Cycling Union.”