Nike, Anheuser-Busch cut ties with Armstrong

World famous cyclist Lance Armstrong said he is

World famous cyclist Lance Armstrong said he is stepping down as chairman from his charity after Nike backed away from him for personal endorsements but promised to support the Livestrong cancer charity. (Credit: AP, 2009)

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Nike and Anheuser-Busch each said they were cutting ties with Lance Armstrong after the once-esteemed cyclist, reeling from a doping scandal, stepped down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity Wednesday.

Armstrong announced his resignation from the charity in an early-morning statement. Within minutes, Nike said it would end its relationship with him "due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade." Nike said it will continue to support Livestrong.

Beer-maker Anheuser-Busch did not give a reason for its action, which followed hours later. A statement from its U.S. marketing vice president, Paul Chibe, said simply, "We have decided not to renew our relationship with Lance Armstrong when our current contract expires at the end of 2012. We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation and its cycling and running events."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report last week detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. The USADA has banned him from cycling for life and ordered 14 years of his career results erased -- including the Tour titles. The report contains sworn statements from 26 witnesses, including 11 former teammates.

Armstrong strongly denies doping but did not fight USADA accusations through arbitration, saying he thinks the process is unfair.

His inspiring story of not only recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain but then also 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.

He was not paid a salary as chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, known mainly by its Livestrong brand name, but 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. Armstrong said in a statement he was resigning "to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career."

Kelley O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the charity already may be permanently damaged, and Armstrong may never be able to fully resume his public role.

"From the brand perspective," she said, "Armstrong is done." Unlike Tiger Woods and Michael Vick, who also were embroiled in controversy, she said, Armstrong is "just a retired athlete with a tarnished image."

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