Nike has performed a spectacular U-turn and terminated its sponsorship agreement with Lance Armstrong having previously backed the disgraced American.
Nike initially stood by Armstrong despite the 41-year-old being labelled a “serial cheat” and the leader of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen” by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
That move attracted widespread criticism but, in light of the “insurmountable evidence” against Armstrong, the sportswear giant has cut its commercial ties with the former US Postal rider, but will continue to support the Livestrong foundation.
A Nike statement read: “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 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.”
The announcement came just minutes after Armstrong announced he was stepping down as chairman of Livestrong to distance the cancer charity from the doping scandal which has engulfed cycling.
Armstrong, who continues to deny the accusations against him, will remain on the charity’s board.
“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 controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.”
Armstrong contracted testicular cancer in October 1996 and established the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997. The Livestrong brand become synonymous with both Armstrong and cancer awareness when the charity’s yellow bracelet was launched in 2004.
“As my cancer treatment was drawing to an end, I created a foundation to serve people affected by cancer. It has been a great privilege to help grow it from a dream into an organisation that today has served 2.5m people and helped spur a cultural shift in how the world views cancer survivors,” said Armstrong.
“My family and I have devoted our lives to the work of the foundation and that will not change. We plan to continue our service to the foundation and the cancer community. We will remain active advocates for cancer survivors and engaged supporters of the fight against cancer.”