Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When "swoosh" becomes "flush": Armstrong dumped

It only gets worse for the Premier Pariah of the Peloton, Lance Armstrong.

On Oct. 17, a week after publication of the comprehensive and damning Reasoned Decision by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Lance Armstrong stood down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation and, swoosh, was dumped by his biggest sponsor, Nike. Both were inevitable. Armstrong did not continue the fight against USADA and its mountain of evidence.

Despite the USADA lifetime ban, which effectively strips Armstrong of his achievements, Tour de France officially still considers Armstrong the all-time champ with seven wins and Armstrong still has an Olympic bronze medal from Sydney 2000. It is only a matter of time before the Tour de France and the International Olympic Committee revoke those awards. (Coincidentally, the IOC announced on Oct. 16 that it would be outfitted by Nike beginning in 2013.)

On the Livestrong website, Armstrong said: "to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."

It is important to note, that the statement did not include any denial of the doping code infractions released by USADA. Armstrong will remain on the board of the charity, which I say will most certainly have to rebrand. Look for a new name and new colour scheme.

Nike's terse, two-paragraph statement blames "seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade."

During that decade, Lance Armstrong came to Metro Vancouver to shoot a TV spot. Under the headline "Cycling champ wheels in for commercial: Lance Armstrong rockets over Port Moody trails for international shoe giant Nike," The Province ran a story on Oct. 20, 2001 about crews shooting Armstrong while he rode the trails of Belcarra Regional Park in Port Moody. The ad was supposed to begin airing in November of that year.

Armstrong appeared in this 2001 Nike TV ad that portrayed him as a clean athlete. Nike gave him a platform from which he could fight back against his critics. It was part of the Armstrong cover-up campaign.

The end of 2001 was a turning point for Armstrong. He had three Tour de France titles at the time. Tyler Hamilton left the team. Floyd Landis joined. A decade later, Hamilton and Landis would eventually admit they were guilty of doping and broke the code of silence to accuse Armstrong of being the ringleader.

Armstrong also came to Vancouver in September 2007 for a weekend of cancer-fighting, fundraising charity rides. Armstrong appeared in front of the media before setting off from the University of B.C. on a Sunday ride with Premier Gordon Campbell and hundreds of others. Here's my story from the Sun Media wire.

It was his first time in front of microphones and cameras since his ex-teammate Floyd Landis lost a bid just three days earlier to overturn disqualification of his 2006 Tour de France win.

I asked Armstrong about his thoughts on the matter. "I'd love to answer the question, but I'm out of that business. I'm here to fight cancer."

In hindsight, if Armstrong truly cared about his sport and if he truly had been a clean athlete, he would have said something. Anything.

Now we know he was on more than just his bike.

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