Nike to stop producing Livestrong products as Lance Armstrong fallout continues
Sportswear giant says it will still support charity, but branded goods will disappear by end of the year
Sportswear giant Nike has announced that it will no longer make products for Livestrong Foundation, the charity founded by Lance Armstrong. The last products to be produced under the collaboration, which began with those yellow wristbands in 2004 – in all, 87 million of them have been produced – will come out later this year.
"Nike has made the decision to stop producing new Livestrong product after its Holiday 2013 line," said company spokesman KeJuan Wilkins in a statement quoted on ESPN.
"We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation by funding them directly as they continue their work serving and improving outcomes for people facing cancer."
Nike dropped its personal sponsorship of Armstrong last October, days after the UCI had ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s reasoned decision that saw the former US Postal rider banned from sport for life and stripped of results including the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005.
The following month, the charity he had founded as the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997 as he recovered from cancer said it was formally changing its name to the Livestrong Foundation.
It also emerged that Armstrong, who had stepped down as chairman of the charity in October but said he would remain on its board, had also ceased to be a director.
According to ESPN, sources say that last year Nike sold some $150 million of Livestrong-branded goods but the Oregon-based business, as well as retail chain Dick’s Sporting Goods, a major distributor of the products, were ready to pull the plug.
It adds that since 2004, sales of the yellow wristbands which cost $1 each, as well as minimum guarantees and royalties on other products, had raised $100 million for the charity.
In a statement, the charity said: "The Livestrong Foundation is deeply grateful to Nike not only for the time and resources it invested in helping us improve the lives of people affected by cancer today, but also the creative drive it brought to our nine-year partnership."
Last October, after the UCI had confimed it was backing USADA's stance, it was reported that in the 2006 SCA Promotions case, Kathy LeMond, wife of three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond,had testified that Nike had paid former UCI president Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to help cover up a positive drugs test.
The company said it “vehemently” denied the allegation.
The day after Mrs LeMond’s testimony was reported by news outlets in the United States and beyond, Nike confirmed that it was ending its sponsorship of Armstrong, as did a number of other companies including Trek and Oakley.
In a statement, Nike said: "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.”
Armstrong himself finally confessed to having doped his way to seven Tour de France wins in a two-part televised interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, although he stopped well short of acknowledging that all of the evidence that USADA had presented against him was true.