In his first acknowledgment that his personal brand has been damaged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s voluminous account of what it characterized as “serial cheating” throughout his cycling career, Lance Armstrong resigned as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation he created to help cancer patients, he announced Wednesday.
Those associations will continue, as least for now. But Armstrong himself will no longer be compensated as a Nike athlete in the wake of USADA’s scathing report, his public personae deemed too tainted even for a company that has remained loyal to, and in some cases cultivated associations with, athletes with controversial images.
USADA’s 202-page report, which was backed by more than 1,000 pages of supporting documents and testimony and made public Oct. 10, asserted that Armstrong achieved all of his record seven Tour de France championships “start to finish” through doping. It relied on the testimony of 26 witness, including 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates. And it included detailed, first-hand accounts of Armstrong not only taking banned substances such as EPO and undergoing blood transfusion but also pressuring teammates on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team to dope, as well, and threatening those in position to testify against him.
After initially reiterating its support of Armstrong, Nike reversed course and severed ties with the athlete Wednesday — one week after the report’s public airing.
“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’s statement read.
In announcing he was stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, which last week claimed that donations increased after USADA on Aug. 24 stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport, Armstrong noted the organization’s global reach and effectiveness in helping roughly 2.5 million people affected by cancer.
But, he noted, he had decided “to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career” by stepping down as the foundation’s chairman, ceding the role to vice chairman Jeff Garvey.
Armstrong, 41, won all seven of his Tour de France titles after surviving his own battle against testicular cancer.
According to crisis management specialist Ashley McCown, the USADA report was simply too damning for Armstrong’s association with either Nike or his foundation to continue.