Lance Armstrong has been dropped by sponsors Nike over the ‘insurmountable evidence’ that he doped and ‘misled the company for more than a decade’.
The news follows a week after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released a 1,000 page dossier detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teammates at US Postal and Discovery Channel when he won seven consecutive Tours de France between 1999 and 2005.
Nike had previously stood by Armstrong despite mounting pressure from the cycling world. However, on Wednesday the sportswear manufacturer confirmed that they have terminated their contract with him.
“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 statement said.
“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.”
Earlier in the day Armstrong announced that he is stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so the group can focus on its mission instead of its founder’s problems.
Armstrong, who was not paid a salary as chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, will remain on its 15-member board. His duties leading the board will be turned over to vice chairman Jeff Garvey, who was founding chairman in 1997.
“This organisation, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart,” Armstrong said in a statement. “Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of the controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.”
Foundation spokeswoman Katherine McLane said the decision turns over the foundation’s big-picture strategic planning to Garvey. He will also assume some of the public appearances and meetings that Armstrong used to handle.
Armstrong who has previously denied doping, though did not fight the USADA charges, saying he thinks the process is unfair.
Once Armstrong gave up the fight in August and the report came out, crisis management experts predicted the future of the foundation, known mainly by its Livestrong brand name, would be threatened. They said Armstrong should consider stepping down to keep the charity from getting dragged into a debate over doping.
Armstrong’s inspiring story of not only recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain but then winning the world’s best-known bike race helped his foundation grow from a small operation in Texas into one of the most popular charities in the country.