For a long time Lance Armstrong has been accused of taking doping, but he carried it well enough, gaining fans, wealth and respect along the way. But on Wednesday, he lost everything.
According to CNN, just in one day, the cyclist and cancer survivor lost a major support deal with Nike – once worth millions of dollars – and the chairmanship of the cancer charity he founded 15 years ago.
Armstrong left the post of the chairman of Livestrong of his own free will, but he didn’t plan to lose Nike’s endorsement as well.
“To spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship,” Armstrong said on Wednesday. But he will continue to serve on the board.
Almost at the same time as the foundation announced Armstrong’s resignation, Nike posted a statement to its website saying it won`t stop backing the charity but it refuses to sponsor the man behind it, Reuters reports.
“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 company said.
So every one is leaving the sinking ship. The sunglasses brand, Oakley Inc, also helped Armstrong, said: “We are reviewing the reports into the cyclist’s conduct and awaiting a final decision from the sport’s international authorities”.
Moreover, beer maker Anheuser-Busch said: “We will end our relationship with Armstrong when his contract expires at the end of this year”. Though we would continue to back the foundation and its athletic events.
And yet the list of those who left Armstrong is not finished. ESPN reported two other sponsors, Trek Bicycles and the energy drink maker FRS, were also ending their relationships with the cyclist.
For this moment only the electronics retailer remains a sponsor of Armstrong and Livestrong, a Radio Shack spokesman said.
The consequences of Armstrong`s mistake may contribute to his losing th record seven Tour de France titles. As last week the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency published a 1,000-page report that said the American took part in and organized an elaborate, sophisticated doping scheme on his way to his great success.
The report accused Armstrong of running “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” It included sworn testimony of 26 people, including 15 riders, who described years of performance drug use, Reuters says.
Armstrong has always denied he used banned medicine during his career but decided not to challenge the USADA charges against him. Armstrong`s defiance was part of his image. Nike even made a commercial in the early 2000s shooting him being tested for drugs.
“Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?” Armstrong said while voicing the ad.
Despite all this, Livestrong`s president said that Lance`s success in combating cancer inspired other patients, spreading his reach far beyond the insular world of cycling and cementing his place in celebrity culture.
He became rich, dated a rock star and appeared in movies. The bright yellow “LIVESTRONG” wristbands distributed by his charity became a potent symbol for perseverance in the face of adversity.
Thus before judging him, people should look to his legacy.
“Lance’s devotion to serving others whose lives were irrevocably changed by cancer, as his was, is unsurpassable,” Doug Ulman said in a statement issued after Wednesday’s announcement.
“We are incredibly proud of his record as an advocate and philanthropist and are deeply grateful that Lance and his family will continue to be actively involved with the Foundation’s advocacy and service work.”
But now Livestrong need to find a new face to present itself. “They could do it by focusing on real-world heroes who have faced down cancer while loving a sport more than the spotlight,” Martin said.
“At this point, what they need to do is re-establish the authenticity of their cause and the way to do that, in my opinion, is to reconnect with what people really admire in their heroes,” Martin said.
Howard Bragman, an expert in crisis communications and vice chairman of Reputation.com, an online reputation management company in Los Angeles, said:
“The impact on Armstrong would be devasating. Imagine losing the prestige of all your Tour de France titles, millions in endorsements, stepping down from the organization he loves and founded, that’s been his public mission — and, possibly the worst thing of all, which is public humiliation.”