News24

Sponsors flee disgraced Lance

2012-10-18 07:45

Austin - Sponsors stampeded away from endorsement deals with doping-disgraced US cyclist Lance Armstrong, who also stepped down on Wednesday as chairman of the Livestrong anti-cancer charity he founded.

Armstrong was issued a life ban and stripped of seven Tour de France titles in August by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which last week revealed 1 000 pages of evidence against him, including testimony from 11 former teammates.

Sponsors to pull their support included sportswear maker Nike, 24-Hour Fitness health clubs, brewers Anheuser-Busch, Honey Stinger products and Trek bicycles -- the brand Armstrong rode to French victories only to lose them all.

"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 said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, which used Armstrong in beer advertisements, said they would not renew a sponsorship deal with Armstrong when their current three-year endorsement contract ends in December.

"We have decided not to renew our relationship with Lance Armstrong when our current contract expires at the end of 2012," said Paul Chibe, Anheuser-Busch vice president of US marketing.

Honey Stinger announced it was removing Armstrong's likeness and endorsement from product packaging of its honey-based sports products.

"Given the evidence surrounding Lance Armstrong's alleged actions, we have determined that our business relationship with Armstrong no longer aligns with our company's mission and values," a statement from 24-Hour Fitness said.

Trek, based in Wisconsin, found USADA's report too much evidence to ignore even though Armstrong has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

"Trek is disappointed by the findings and conclusions in the USADA report regarding Lance Armstrong," a statement from the bicycle manufacturer said.

"Given the determinations of the report, Trek today is terminating our longterm relationship with Lance Armstrong."

Most sponsors said they will continue to support Livestrong, the charity Armstrong founded 15 years ago that has raised nearly $500 million.

Armstrong stepped aside rather than see Livestrong impacted by the fallout from revelations that a doping scheme was at the heart of his Tour de France triumphs from 1999-2005, the worst scandal in a sport tarred by cheating.

"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 posted on the Livestrong website.

Armstrong is set to speak at a gala fundraiser on Friday in Austin, Texas, to celebrate Livestrong's 15th anniversary, what could prove to be an emotional moment in the public spotlight, his first since scandal details were revealed.

More than 80 million of Livestrong's iconic yellow wristbands, launched in 2004 in collaboration with Nike, have been sold, donations that were in part inspired by Armstrong's now-tainted cancer comeback.

In addition to eyewitness accounts about doping from each of Armstrong's Tour triumphs, USADA's evidence contained expert medical findings and financial documents linking Armstrong and others to an elaborate doping program.

"The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said.

Armstrong chose not to fight the charges after losing a US federal court fight objecting to USADA's appeal process, saying he was weary from battling years of similar accusations.

Armstrong had been an inspirational figure for millions after recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs and then winning the world's most celebrated cycling event seven times in a row.

USADA unveiled its evidence last week in a report to the International Cycling Union (UCI), which faces growing pressure to reveal how the 41-year-old American was able to escape detection for so long.

UCI is considering the sanctions imposed by USADA. Rejecting them would likely set up a fight with USADA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sunglasses-maker Oakley said it would wait to see what UCI decides before making a sponsorship decision regarding Armstrong.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins, this year's Tour de France winner, is among those trying to help heal cycling's shattered reputation, with his Sky team saying it will require all members to sign a pledge they have never doped if they want to stay on the squad.

"We have been shocked by recent revelations of systemic doping in cycling's past. So we have taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to being a clean team," a Sky statement said.

US federal agents looked into Armstrong for 18 months but closed their probe earlier this year without filing charges, but USADA's findings could make some firms and prosecutors reconsider.

AFP

Comments
  • rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-18 08:11

    We have been shocked by recent revelations of systemic doping in cycling's past.... bulldust man, still happening. Hamilton confirmed it. And it started in the TDF in 1903 because it is not really possible for a mere mortal to be competitive. All the "holier than thou" must rather just shut up - or be willing to walk the same road as Lance when new test can reveal more than the old ones in 10 years time. It is a constant battle to develop designer drugs and masking agents that cannot be detected. And there's more money in winning (i.e. for the medical fraternity working for sponsors) than there is in the fight against it. Lance always said: "I played by the rules" - that does not mean he adhered. 10 SA athletes positive in a year. Chilliboy and Basson sent home from Europe. Allegations against Bolt (does it sound similar to the Lance story?). Hundreds of athletes withdrawn from Olympics by their countries (they qualified but did not attend). Many more competing in the Olympics that were previously banned. Lance is not the "devil incarnate" - he was simply the best whilst competing on a level playing field....

      tamlin.vanheerver - 2012-10-18 08:27

      Just the ending is wrong.... it was not a level playing field, if everybody cheated then yes, but most did not cheat. He's left in a huge dilema now, does he come clean and tell the world that yes I cheated fine you got me, and live a life in hiding, or does he take the easy way out and commit suicide, my cards are on the latter.

      john.comyn.18 - 2012-10-18 09:19

      Agree - if the allegations are true (we still have not seen a positive test where Lance is concerned) the UCI has to take responsibilty for the way they have run the sport for many years. Basically he would have outsmated the UCI and all the other cyclists and there teams. Not a single team or cyclist lodged a doping allegation against Armstrong. Was it because they were under some kind of hypnotic spell or could it have been that they were all doping. Like you say "a level playing field". Lance Armstrong has been an inspiration to millions of people and I'm not only talking about cancer patients, I'm talking about people from all walks of life including business, sport you name it. Now suddenly they feel cheated - what a load of BS. Stop the witch hunt and leave the man alone.

      nadine.devilliers - 2012-10-18 09:20

      WOW Tamlin, that is probably the most disgusting thing i have seen a human being say, though that being said you are probably just a waste of a sperm cell. I agree he stuffed up and should come clean but saying someone should take their own life? Not everyone is as weak as you are sweetheart. Hope you die soon :)

      napolita.kio - 2012-10-18 09:38

      Wow Nadine....so Tamlin is "...just a waste of a sperm cell." because you claim she/he said "...someone should take their own life?" and then you end you post by saying "Hope you die soon :)" !!!! That's rich you know... Btw, Tamlin SPECULATED on what Lance MIGHT do. In no way does speculation turn into a suggestion or more appropriately a command, in this context. Hope you live long and God bless ;)

      tamlin.vanheerver - 2012-10-18 12:10

      Nadine cannot grasp the English language, its not her fault, she was just hopeless in school, must be the ginger hair? Oh and Nadine, you might want to take a look at how many people haven taken their lives as the easy way out, and yes I say that is the easy way out, when they have been caught at doing something seriously wrong, look up a company called Enron as one example amoungst many.

      chris.douglas.9803 - 2012-10-18 16:06

      Oh dear Tamlin you just contradicted yourself (re: Nadine not being able to grasp the English language) - too many errors of your own, girlie. Most did not cheat? I think it would be best for you to go do some research before you make bold statements like this. I've been involved in cycling for quite some time in the EU, and I can assure you that it was the absolute norm to cheat, else (1) a cyclist would not have stood a chance to compete competitively, & (2) the peleton would not have accepted a cyclist (eg Christophe Bassons). Lance merely acted as the 'captain' and enforced the 'code of silence' rather strictly, but this was to be expected going on his extremely strong character and drive. Lance? Suicide? Sounds like YOU may have some issues to deal with!

  • dehlia.fredericks - 2012-10-18 08:13

    defriended by all! sad!

  • kenpeg.dawson - 2012-10-18 08:20

    You want loyalty get a dog. Ask Tiger Woods among others.

  • rhett.deklerk - 2012-10-18 08:36

    Publicly; No - Privately; Yes\r\n\r\nThey must have coined it when the going was good...sponsors probably knew what was happening atleast the top K9's.

  • smahlaba - 2012-10-18 11:38

    Ayeye Armstrong. So what must happen now? Will he be going to jail for this like Marion Jones did?

  • ashleyoli - 2012-10-24 09:16

    Go read the read evidence on this website,all documented for those who are sceptic http://cyclinginvestigation.usada.org/

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