In the end, Nike had nowhere to run. When protesters led by Lance Armstrong’s former teammate Paul Willerton turned up at their headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon yesterday, waving placards calling on Nike to cut its ties with Lance, the writing was, as they say, on the wall.
Hence the announcement made with real regret that the sports goods company was severing ties with the once revered cycling ace.
Earlier Nike had insisted that they were standing by Lance Armstrong after the US Anti-Doping Agency released its 1000-page report detailing why it stripped the disgraced cyclist of his seven Tour de France titles.
That really brought a strong reaction from people dismayed by Armstrong's actions. Willerton didn't miss in his condemnation , "Nike should not condone the behaviour that Lance Armstrong has demonstrated for so long. To see Nike take this stance now is disgusting.
"Nike's materials have stood for some of the greatest thing you can stand for as a company. A clean sport should be another one of those things."
Speaking outside Nike headquarters Willerton , said according to Oregon’s KOMO-TV, that Nike should “Stand up and acknowledge the truth.”
Nike has a history of publicly supporting embattled athletes. It issued statements backing Kobe Bryant after the Lakers guard was charged with sexual assault in 2003 and Tiger Woods after his extramarital sexploits, as the New York Daily News put it, became public in 2009.
In Armstrong's case there was another embarrassment. The Daily News had claimed that Nike may have been complicit in Armstrong’s doping scheme, described in the USADA report as the most sophisticated in the history of sports.
Kathy Lemond, the wife of American cyclist Greg Lemond, testified under oath during a 2006 deposition that Nike paid former International Cycling Union president Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to cover up a 1999 Armstrong positive drug test.
“Nike vehemently denies that it paid Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to cover up a positive drug test,” the company said in a statement. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”
And it no longer condones Lance Armstrong either.
International Olympic Committee vice president Thomas Bach has called on Armstrong to ‘”come clean” about doping. “It would be in the interest of sport and in his own interest,” he said. “It would help cleaning up, and also it would help in drawing the right conclusions for the future to prevent something like this.”
Lance Armstrong's story as a cancer survivor remains, despite all of this, truly remarkable. He would do himself a lot of good if he did as Bach suggests, and "Come clean".
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