Nike is back pedalling from supporting disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong by trying to distance the company from an illegal performance enhancing drugs scandal.
Armstrong has picked up a pay cheque from the $25 billion a year turnover firm for more than 10 years, but the company does not want to be saddled with a tarnished reputation that could lead to falling sales and a lack of investor confidence.
Nike has made mistakes in the past by backing sports stars through dubious episodes – notably golf ace Tiger Woods and his confession of sexual shenanigans.
The company seems to have learned from how these past episodes have inflicted damage on the brand.
More than 10 years of lies
In a statement, Nike unceremoniously dumped Armstrong, who is fast becoming an outcast following revelations about his involvement in what is allegedly the most sophisticated and ongoing illegal performance enhancing drug fiasco in sport.
“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,” said the 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.”
Livestrong is a cancer fighting charity formed by Armstrong in 1997.
He has resigned as chairman following revelations in the New York press about an alleged $500,000 bribe paid to former International Cycling Union president Hein Verbruggen to cover up a positive drug test.
Drugs and bribe revelations
Livestrong has raised around $500 million to aid 2.5 million cancer sufferers. Armstrong is expected to speak at a gala to celebrate the charity’s 15th anniversary this weekend, alongside celebrities including Norah Jones, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller and Robin Williams.
Armstrong told the US press: “This organisation, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart. Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.”
The allegations levelled at Armstrong are more shocking as he won seven consecutive Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005, leaving him regarded as one of the leading sportsmen of all time.
The allegations from team mates suggested he cheated to win by secretly taking drugs and bribing officials.