Lance Armstrong's disgrace amid doping charges reached a new level after his biggest sponsor, Nike, announced that it was severing its 16-year relationship with the cycling star as he stepped down as chairman of his foundation, Livestrong.
The athletic company said that it was no longer supporting Armstrong after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released an over 200-page report last week that included names of 11 teammates who detail cheating. A spokesman also confirmed Nike will change the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
"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," the company said in a statement. "Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner."
Nike began its relationship with Armstrong in 1996. The company does not release the terms for its endorsement deals.
The company's announcement is a big blow to Armstrong as the foundation celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend, especially as the company is known to stand by its athletes during their public woes. Those include golf pro Tiger Woods' sexual affairs and sexual assault allegations against the Lakers' Kobe Bryant.
Armstrong announced he is resigning as chair of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, commonly known as Livestrong, to shield it from negative publicity.
"I have had the great honor of serving as this foundation's chairman for the last five years and its mission and success are my top priorities," Armstrong said in a statement. "Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."
Armstrong will remain on the board. Its previous vice-chairman, Jeff Garvey, will become chairman. The non-profit raises money to support cancer patients and raise awareness. Nike said it plans "continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer."
Doug Ulman, Livestrong's president and CEO, said in a statement, "Today, thanks to Lance's leadership, that foundation has had the privilege of raising close to $500 million to serve people affected by cancer." Armstrong could lose millions in winnings and endorsements fees if he is stripped of his racing titles as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency first announced in August.
However, donations to Livestrong skyrocketed the day after Armstrong decided to stop fighting charges against him. In August, Ulman told ESPN the foundation received $78,000 in unsolicited donations in the 24 hours following Armstrong's announcement.
Over the summer, the agency banned Armstrong from the sport for his alleged use of illegal performance enhancing drugs and said it expects cycling's governing body, the International Cycling Union, to strip Armstrong of his titles. USADA said they could require Armstrong to return millions of dollars in cash prizes that he has won since 1998.
The Tour de France awards the winner about 450,000 euros plus bonuses, which for Armstrong means he could lose at least $4 million as a seven-time champion.
However, a source close to Armstrong said it still not yet clear whether Armstrong will lose his titles, depending on the International Cycling Union's response. The organizer of the Tour de France, Amaury Sport Organization, has not yet commented about the USADA's statements.
Armstrong retired last year and has been since racing in triathlons. He previously had an annual income of $500,000, according to Sports Illustrated's Fortunate 50 rankings from 2004 and 2005. He is believed to be worth $100 million. His foundation, Livestrong, had previously stood staunchly beside him.
Garvey has said Armstrong "personally contributed nearly $6.5 million to propel his foundation's services to cancer survivors and their families." Forbes, however, estimated that Armstrong could lose at least $50 million in product endorsements over the next five years.