NPR Story
3:33 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Lance Armstrong Parts Ways With Livestrong, Nike

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 11:11 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It has been a brutal week for cyclist Lance Armstrong, and things got even worse yesterday. Armstrong announced that he will no longer be chairing Livestrong. That's the foundation he started to support fellow cancer survivors. And he lost major sponsors, including Nike, Anheuser-Busch, and also Radio Shack. All of this follows last week's searing report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It placed Armstrong at the center of a sophisticated doping program on his championship cycling teams. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman has been following Armstrong's story.

And Tom, good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So tell us what unfolded yesterday.

GOLDMAN: Well, as you said, Lance Armstrong stepped down as chairman of his Livestrong Foundation, in his words to spare the foundation any negative effects as the result of the controversy surrounding my cycling career.

Then Nike, which originally stood by Armstrong after last Wednesday's release of the report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, reversed field(ph), terminated their long term contract, because - again, in a statement - big day for written statements - because of the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade.

Then, like dominoes, Anheuser-Busch, Radio Shack, 24 Hour Fitness, Trek Bicycles, Honey Stinger - makes honey-based products for athletes - FRS makes energy and health drinks - all in varying degrees ended business relationships, removed his image or brand from their products.

Now, Oakley, which makes sunglasses, is a hold-out. They're waiting until cycling's international governing body decides whether to challenge the report and sanctions against Armstrong. The UCI, as it's called, has until Halloween to decide. I contacted them yesterday and got a terse no comment.

You know, David, it's hard to believe with all that's been revealed in yesterday's announcements that the UCI will still challenge this. But we have to wait.

GREENE: That's a long list of companies pulling out. I mean what does the loss of sponsorships mean for Armstrong?

GOLDMAN: Less money. And not just the sponsorships. Speaking engagements might start to dry up, and they're a healthy source of income for Lance Armstrong. And perhaps a couple of legal cases in which he settled earlier and made a lot of money from those settlements, those may be reopened and Armstrong may end up paying that money back. And that could be as much as more than $10 million.

GREENE: And the foundation, Tom, I mean Livestrong, Armstrong a cancer survivor himself, he founded the organization for cancer survivors - can it maintain its appeal without the guy who really gave it its identity?

GOLDMAN: You know, Doug Ulman, who is the CEO of Livestrong, was on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED last night. And he said Livestrong can live on its own. He says there are many partners, as he called them, who believe in the work Livestrong is doing and will continue to do so. And in fact in their statement saying farewell to Armstrong yesterday, at least two of the companies, Nike and Anheuser-Busch, said they still support Livestrong.

Since August, when Armstrong said he wouldn't fight the doping charges, Livestrong reportedly has received more than 16,000 contributions. That's almost twice the normal amount. And according to Reuters, to date this year the foundation has reported revenues of over $33 million. That's over two percent from this point a year ago.

GREENE: And what about Armstrong and his reputation? I mean he's remained defiant so far. Can he come back from all of this?

GOLDMAN: With a certain segment of the population he can - cancer patients, cancer survivors. And a big reason for that is they view him - while a lot of the world is starting to view him as a fraud, they view him as absolutely authentic. And they point to October 2, 1996, the day he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He felt the chill of that diagnosis. That is a bonding thing with other cancer patients. As long as they have that connection, there will be that authenticity in their minds and, you know, his image will be fine.

GREENE: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks very much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

GREENE: This is MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.