The repercussions are still rolling in over the USADAD report outlining how, when, and to what extent Lance Armstrong cheated. Just this morning, we reported that Nike has been accused of paying $500,000 in hush money to UCI chief Hein Verbruggen to cover up a positive blood doping test result for Lance Armstrong, along with how the brand is under pressure for continuing to support the cyclist. Well, there’s no more support: Nike fired the disgraced rider today.
“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 said in a statement. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner. Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer.”
Also, Armstrong announced that he is quitting as the chairman of the Livestrong foundation. “To spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship,” he said in a statement.
For Nike to cancel its contract with Armstrong is huge. The company stood by Kobe Bryant when he was accused of sexual assault, Tiger Woods during revelations of marital infidelities, and Michael Vick when he went to federal prison over dogfighting.
“It takes pretty damning evidence for them to drop anybody. They’re about the most faithful company you can think of,” Bob Dorfman, an endorsement expert and executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising, told Money magazine.
Armstrong is the 50th highest-paid athlete in the world and the wealthiest cyclist, according to Forbes; he made $21 million in 2010. Although dropped by Nike, he continues to be sponsored by Trek, Anheuser-Busch, Oakley, RadioShack, and Honey Stinger (of which he is part owner).
Later in the day, Armstrong was dropped by Trek, Anheuser-Busch, Giro, 24 Hour Fitness, and Radio Shack. Honey Stinger said it would drop his likeness from its packaging. Oakley continues to stand by him.