CHICAGO – Nike ended its contract with Lance Armstrong a week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency detailed his alleged use of performance-enhancing substances.
Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain, said in a separate statement Wednesday that he would step down as chairman of the Livestrong foundation. Nike said in a statement on its website it would continue to support Livestrong initiatives to help people affected by cancer.
“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,” the Beaverton, Ore.-based company said. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”
Nike said a week ago after the USADA report was released that it “plans to continue to support Lance.” It didn’t explain in Wednesday’s statement what had caused it to change its stance.
USADA’s report said Armstrong’s career was “fueled from start to finish by doping.” Armstrong, the record seven-time Tour de France winner who had his titles stripped by the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based agency in August, required teammates to use banned substances or face dismissal from his squad, according to a 202-page summary of its case against him.
Armstrong, 41, has repeatedly denied doping, saying he has never failed a drug test. He said Wednesday he was stepping down from Livestrong, which he started in 1996, to “spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career.”
Livestrong Vice Chairman Jeff Garvey will take over as head of the foundation.
Nike is scheduled to co-sponsor events celebrating the 15th anniversary of Livestrong in the coming weeks, according to an article in Outside Magazine cited Wednesday by cyclingnews.com. It said the company, the world’s largest sporting-goods maker, signed a five-year contract in 2010 to pay the Lance Armstrong Foundation at least $7.5 million annually from profits generated by Livestrong merchandise.
Armstrong made $21 million in 2010, making him the 50th highest-paid athlete in the world and the wealthiest cyclist, according to an annual list released by Forbes magazine.
Armstrong also has endorsement deals with Trek Bicycle Corp., Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Michelob Ultra beer, Luxottica Group’s Oakley unit, and RadioShack Corp., as well as smaller companies such FRS Co. and Honey Stinger, which make energy and nutrition products.
Armstrong was banned for life from competitive cycling and all other Olympic-related sports and stripped of his Tour de France titles on Aug. 23 after opting not to fight USADA’s allegations.
The USADA decision is “a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories,” Armstrong’s lawyer Timothy Herman said last week.
Nike rose 1.7 percent to $97.24 Tuesday in New York. The shares have gained 0.9 percent this year.