Talk about bad luck getting worse. If I were a more cynical person, I'd think "wonder if Lance Armstrong wishes he had cancer again?"
In the wake of a devastating report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency detailing its case against the champion cyclist, Armstong announced his resignation as Chairman of his Austin, Texas based Livestrong cancer charity. The major sponsors of Livestrong have already announced they will continue to support the charitable organization, and Armstrong told the Austin American-Statesman that he would appear at all Livestrong events this weekend, and would continue on as a board member in the foundation.
In quick, fast, and hurried response, sponsors including Nike, Anheuser Busch, Trek bicycles, and Radio Shack dropped Armstrong from endorsement deals. Oakley is withholding its verdict to see if the International Cycling Union decides to appeal the USADA's sanctions to the world Court of Arbitration for Sport before the October 31 deadline.
While Anheuser Busch simply stated they would not continue with Armstrong when his contract expires at the end of the year, Nike certainly made it clear how they felt with their statement that, “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.” How quickly things change in just a couple of days
That endorsement deals would evaporate was no shock at all, although some are criticizing Nike for giving Armstrong the axe and keeping Michael Vick on the payroll. That Armstrong stepped down from the chairmanship of Livestrong shows he is paying attention and has launched at least some form of damage control, but the simple question remains. Where does Armstrong and Livestrong go from here?
While Armstong stepping down was a good move and a solid start, will it ultimately be enough in the long run? While distancing himself from the seat of power shows contrition, if not an admission of guilt (something I think we will never hear from Armstrong), it does show that Armstrong and more importantly Livestrong are taking this situation seriously and are proactively absorbing the blow and pressing forward, rather than taking a knee to catch their breath.
Then again, there is the train of thought that maybe they should stay down. Kelly O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that “From the brand perspective, Armstrong is done.” Kind of hard to disagree. How many commercials are you seeing Barry Bonds filming these days? The last time anyone was scrambling to put Michael Vick on a video game cover, it was to jump on the Internet meme bandwagon.
This isn't to say Armstrong can't or won't be able to continue bringing about good works for the organization, but at the same time, how successful can his efforts ultimately be when he is going to be working on image repair basically the rest of his natural life? Other scandalized athletes have the advantage of returning to their sports to let the stats do the talking at the end of the day. Lance Armstrong does not have that luxury anymore, both retired and banned. Even if the sanctions are appealed and overthrown, the man does not have seven more Tour de Frances in him, nor would he be anywhere near his capabilities from that era, performance enhancers or not.
Now, Armstrong gets to find out what a true uphill pedal is like.
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