Keeping Score

Should Nike Be Sticking by Lance Armstrong?

The company continues to endorse Lance Armstrong. But at what cost?

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Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Lance Armstrong cycles alongside teammate George Hincapie during the 19th stage of the 92nd Tour de France, July 22, 2005.

In August, Lance Armstrong put up his hands and said he would no longer contest the doping charges that the United States Anti-Doping Agency have brought against him, basically arguing that it was a waste of his time. No matter that he’d be stripped of his Tour de France titles. “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours,” Armstrong said. Nike, his long-time sponsor, and maker of the 84 million-plus Livestrong bracelets that have been sold throughout the globe, said they were sticking by him:

“We are saddened that Lance Armstrong may no longer be able to participate in certain competitions and his titles appear to be impacted,” Nike spokeswoman Mary Remuzzi said in an emailed statement. ”Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors.”

On Wednesday, as we now know, things got much worse for Armstrong. A USADA report on Armstrong’s doping habits included eyewitness testimony from eleven former teammates, and gory details about refrigerated blood, secret roadside meetings and canceled races to avoid drug testing. And yet Nike’s position did not change. The company just re-relesesed that statement.

(MORE: Why USADA’s Case Against Lance Armstrong Is Compelling)

This stance inspired plenty of social media outrage. “Hey @nike your support of Ance just cost you a customer, and many, many more.,” wrote one user. @thebikeshow tweeted: “Wow. @nike is standing by the athlete guilty of the biggest fraud in the history of the sport. Cheat to win. Just Do It!” Owen Gibson, the Olympics editor for the Guardian newspaper in Great Britain, shared a tweet from Paralympian Robin Williams, a British footballer: “I won’t be buying anything @nike again if they stand by Lance Armstrong. #disgrace.”

Sure, a few angry tweets may not negatively impact Nike’s bottom line. And Nike is heavily invested in Armstrong. Still, the company’s decision to support Armstrong surprises some sports business experts. Nike is one of the most important sports brands in the world. As such, it’s supposed to represent honesty and fairness. Unless you believe Armstrong is a victim of a conspiracy to bring him down, it’s pretty clear, at this point, that Armstrong violated these principles. So what, exactly, does Nike stand for? “I thought they would have dropped him, to be frank,” says Robert Tuchman, a sports marketing consultant based in New York.

Nike is sending mixed messages, a problem for any brand. The company might make some of the best sportswear on the planet, and strive to do good around the world. But now, Nike is getting attention for this anti-doping ad, from 2001. “Everyone wants to know what I’m on,” says Armstrong.  “What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?”

MORE: Moral DeCoupling: How Consumers Justify Supporting A Tarnished Brand

69 comments
lukeflegg
lukeflegg

Snore. We're talking a possible bit of weed by the looks of it. Hardly a performance drug and hardly an unfair advantage (which is why the law exists) basically on par with getting drunk, surely. I think especially until definitely proven guilty this is a non-story.

Danny
Danny

Nike's continued support of Lance Armstrong in the face of the USADA report shows a shocking lack of ethics and corporate responsibility in a company that claims to excel in both areas. If Nike truly wanted to excel in integrity, transparency, and responsible behavior, it would cut ties to Mr. Armstrong and create a mandatory Code of Ethics for those whom it sponsors.  Otherwise, it sounds like Nike's motto should truly be "Cheat to Win -- Just Do It!"    

Orivero5
Orivero5

What I truly find funny is why all of his team mates and the US anti doping agency are going after Lance Armstrong now! Why didn't they start asking those questions and doing a real investigation after he won the third Tour de France? This is absolutely ridiculous and sickens me that they are doing this now!

Douche_Baggin
Douche_Baggin

Lance Armstrong is not a cheater. 

All you critics, complainers and malcontents: what have you done with your pathetic bitter lives? You cynics live on the same level as child molesters, so don't be confused when nobody pays you no mind.

Cowards, the lot of you.

Douche_Baggin
Douche_Baggin

Absolutely Nike should stand by Armstrong.

Don't let the personal vendettas of the U.S ADA diminish his greatness. 

Live strong. And never give into those clowns.

WitnessesRnotEvidence
WitnessesRnotEvidence

Witnesses can lie. Anti-doping tests do not lie. Lance Armstrong is a cheater in the eyes of this proven cheaters. 

Anti-doping tests - ALL of them Lance was never proven to have doped. 

Hugh Jigo
Hugh Jigo

I think what we're seeing here is a tipping point. Sports seems to have reached the stage where the only source of improvement in human performance is non-natural enhancement. Nike sees the writing on the wall: for athletes to remain a source of fresh customer inspiration, they need to set new records; that can only happen through doping; therefore doping will become mandatory. 

Lance Armstrong is the Rosa Parks of doping. Soon everyone will be openly doing it, doping technology will become safe and far more advanced, and it will no longer be considered cheating. 

The next forms of cheating will be gene manipulation, transplants of fast-twitch muscle, the surgical insertion of motors, and non-food fuelling. Those will be unacceptable for a while too, but not for long.

RAMAL
RAMAL

Well, they didn't drop Tiger Woods when everyone else did.

Moniker7
Moniker7

As far as I can tell we're still waiting on actual physical evidence that he doped. So far all we have to go on is the testimony of 11 guys who said they saw him dope, etc, etc. Interestingly enough, some of those guys were caught cheating and a bunch of them were his direct competitors. If he doped, fine, show us something other than a bunch of opinions from guys who were coached by the USADA in their testimony.

RXXL
RXXL

Wake up! These guys weren't competitors with some vendetta, these were some of Lance's best friends who testified against him. Can you really discount more than 20 eyewitnesses saying the same thing? Most of them were not caught. Have you read the docier? The affidavits? There are reciepts, paper trails and bank transactions. There are positive tests, they were covered up. EPO in 1999 and 2001. People have been sentenced to death for murder with less evidence. You can still support LA but please stop doing so with some much blindness and idiot ness.

Sadjaxx
Sadjaxx

Excellent point! @moniker7

Maximus
Maximus

There's a high chance that LA is a sociopath. His behavior is certainly indicative..

Whold90
Whold90

How much money are we the taxpayers contributing to Armstrong's lynching? What difference is it to me if these cyclists dope up? Apparently they all do it so why are they pursuing these non-essential doping cases. They finally gave up on Roger Clemens. They're just chasing Armstrong because he's a big scalp to bring home. If I thought that his scalp would stop doping it would be worth making him an example, but it won't and all you're doing is bring down someone who does more good than harm. I applaud Nike's decision as they made a lot of money off his name and now they're showing their depth of appreciation.

Lucia Matias
Lucia Matias

Who cares? Why bother?

Nike, Apple, etc are all cheaters, more so than Armstrong and the steroid-happy crowd.

They sell illusion to the cult following masses.

Talendria
Talendria

If they stuck by Tiger, why wouldn't they stick by Lance?  I think it's pretty clear all they care about is the dollar signs.

seraq
seraq

 i will  support nike and i will support cancer research also, its part of lance

Roddenby
Roddenby

Shame on you all you fair weather couch commandos who sit on the sidelines and redicule. Lance is a hero and you can't fake beating cancer. He transcended biking and became a beacon to all people fighting cancer a long time ago. Good on you Nike for sticking by your principles.

onaturalia
onaturalia

I'm still confused. He passed all their drug tests but now they decided he's guilty anyway. I don't trust anyone here.

luke
luke

Excuse me for asking all of you commenters... do you really believe that there is a single top athlete NOT taking drugs?? Modern sports is BASED on anabolics. Lance was doped as everyone else was.

Robertschoi
Robertschoi

in light of Lance's zeal to do what ever it took to protect himself and his interest only, I can no longer support anything associated with Lance's work or any company that endorses his behavior. I've been a Nike supporter for years but with their endorsement of Lance I can no longer support buying any of their products.

Michael Jibrael
Michael Jibrael

The world is complex. I don't know if Armstrong did anything or not. Do any of us know?

Sammy
Sammy

I don't see why Nike wouldn't stand by Lance. They've been exploiting child and sweatshop labor in China since the 80's and 90's. I'm sure a little bit of 'doping' is mild on their ethical standards meter.

dionkraft
dionkraft

Marion Jones but on a bike instead..thats all

skikayaker
skikayaker

Wasn't this issue litigated in court?  Why does USADA have jurisdiction over UCI regarding a case that is over a decade old?  I agree with an earlier poster.  Those of you threatening to not buy Nike need to realize that Michael Vick is the real criminal that should warrant a Nike boycott, not Lance.  None of us here know the facts other than testimony from admitted liars who for the most part have nothing to lose and often a book deal or a product line to gain.  None of us faced the decisions of competing at such a high level in a sport that was overwhelmed and consumed by a bunch of dopers from all teams, from every country.  I want to see an end to doping and I'm tired of seeing pro cyclists like Alberto Contador cheating the system.  It's time to look forward and fix what we can to improve the sport of cycling.  Rubber necking never solve a thing.

skikayaker
skikayaker

Wasn't this issue litigated in court?  Why does USADA have jurisdiction over UCI regarding a case that is over a decade old?  I agree with an earlier poster.  Those of you threatening to not buy Nike need to realize that Michael Vick is the real criminal that should warrant a Nike boycott, not Lance.  None of us here know the facts other than testimony from admitted liars who for the most part have nothing to lose and often a book deal or a product line to gain.  None of us faced the decisions of competing at such a high level in a sport that was overwhelmed and consumed by a bunch of dopers from all teams, from every country.  I want to see an end to doping and I'm tired of seeing pro cyclists like Alberto Contador cheating the system.  It's time to look forward and fix what we can to improve the sport of cycling.  Rubber necking never solve a thing.

Skikayaker
Skikayaker

Let's all please try to maintain a level of  jurisprudence here.  I don't even like the Lance because I think he's arrogant.  However, he's innocent in my book until proven guilty.

I have two questions.

1.  Could any of the guys who testified that they we're coerced into doping in order to stay on the team cycled on another team?

2.  Have any of those who have testified changed their position on admitting their guilt, in other words, lied and now are claiming not to have lied?

Noteworthy ... Hincapie testified that there was a time in cycling when you simply could not compete if you weren't doping.  IF all the top tier cyclists were doping, and IF LA is eventually proven to have doped, what is the unfair advantage LA receive over the other dopers?

This is not a trick question.

Matt Steele
Matt Steele

Can i remind you that the relevant agency in this case is the UCI not USADA. Until the UCI comes out with a decision he is still a world champion.

Chillwell
Chillwell

Screw you Lance you pathetic cheater and eff you Nike and all your wonderful  products, none of which I will ever purchase again. Lance doesn't care who he screws over in his quest for the top. Of course he's not going to admit his guilt, integrity is one of those things you WON'T find in his bloodstream.

luke
luke

 so you really think that sports are "clean"?? interesting....everybody takes drugs. somebody should come out and make it clear once and for all.

FC
FC

Good for Nike. I continue to support Lance and Nike. I will increase my purchase of Nike stuff ten fold, to make up the loss of business from the Lance haters(Losers). The whole case against Lance is based on admitted liars, and is totally bogus. Go Nike and Lance.

Aussie
Aussie

I don't hate Lance, I hate what he did and his cowardice in not coming forward and admitting his guilt. He is a coward.

Go ahed, increase your purchase of Nike, you are aware that virtually none of it goes to cancer research, yes another one of Lances deceptions.

Louis Hébert Poulin II
Louis Hébert Poulin II

IF you stuck by Nike through Michael Vick, then you sure as hell better stick by Nike through Lance Armstrong.

Maxshoesbulkbk
Maxshoesbulkbk

“Everyone wants to know what I’m on,” says Armstrong.  ”What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?”:Recommended a comprehensive trade website http://www.shoesmallshop.com/ sports and life"!

TheBeast
TheBeast

Okay, assuming he's guilty, which he probably isn't...Who cares?! Why do people care so much about their silly sports? Oh no, he might have cheated at the ride the bike game. Big deal. Same goes for baseball, football, whatever. ITS....A....GAME. Get a life and start worrying about yourselves. 

Stock girl
Stock girl

Cheating is never OK weather in sports or any other aspect of life. This is a HUGE deal, it's not just a game it's a huge multinational business. Lance is one of the most despicable and deceptive individuals of all time. His disgrace needs to be held up for everyone as an example of what not to do.

alinfranter
alinfranter

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alinfranter
alinfranter

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Rumionemore
Rumionemore

No. Like so many other so-called heroes of our time - Obama, Bill Clinton, Petraeus, reality TV stars - Armstrong is a pretender, a fake. The death of Neil Armstrong occurred just as the news of Lance's final blow was coming out. That Armstrong was a hero. His personal life drove his magnificent accomplishments  - he was much more than the first moonwalker - and vice-versa.

Sealsfc
Sealsfc

Nike cares more about the Almighty $$$. They'll drop him when he is no longer useful to them...

Laura Peterson
Laura Peterson

Whether he cheated or not, he's already made his millions. It matters little at this point if Nike withdraws its endorsement.

And I'm sure he could care less whether USADA strips him of some trophy or Nike bails on him, since because of his ill-gotten fame he was able to acquire mutiple houses, a ranch in Texas, a profitable foundation, heck he even has his own bikeway named after him in Austin, Texas. He's got multiple endorsements, book and movie rights. Oh and that plastic yellow thing hanging around your wrist that was made in China? He makes money off that too. Suckers.

In a nutshell he took everyone to the cleaners and then some. He's set for life, even without some silly trophy adorning his mantle. Maybe he'll decide to put a Renoir there instead. Something you'll never have.

Its a tragic lesson for kids, as it reinforces to them that is that its o.k. to lie, cheat or steal your way to the top in America.. because once you make it there then you're all set, even if you get caught.

onaturalia
onaturalia

The whole world is one stacked deck. Nobody is kidding me here.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Perhaps the truest comment that has appeared on TIME in some time.

AznxProd *
AznxProd *

Get a grip, lady. Three people went went to jail in the aftermath of the financial crisis which cost people jobs, houses, marriages and lives. Your politicians lie to you regularly, government screws you ever single day as it encroaches on your freedoms, it prints money and erodes your purchasing power, then wastes it on endless war and you're worried about some guy who rode a bike being a bad example for kids?

RunningWriting
RunningWriting

I'm surprised by the different treatment of Lance Armstrong and athletes in the popular team sports, who have not only doped but have sometimes done much worse. The baseball playoffs feature athletes like Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and others who have admitted doping (but only after their names were released in connection with the Mitchell Report and the league-wide doping investigation). Past superstars like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire likely doped. Many fans are still cheering on Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger, who many believe (with good reason) to be rapists. There's Michael Vick. O.J. Simpson, Ray Lewis, ...

Lance Armstrong is far from perfect. But given that other pro athletes seem to be accepted after sometimes doing far worse, I can't bring myself to be so outraged, even if the allegations are true. I don't like it, but I can't discount the enormous accomplishments that Lance Armstrong has made for the cause of cancer research and funding. Over $500 million raised, according to some estimates.

eastvanstan
eastvanstan

Nike should drop Lance. The case against him is compelling - he cheated and he bullied and intimidated those who tried to tell the truth.


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