Nike allegedly paid off cycling president to cover for Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong has been linked to performance-enhancing drug use for more than a decade, but Nike has remained by his side all throughout the years. According to a recent report in the NY Daily News, the sports apparel juggernaut did far more than just that.
Last week, the United States Anti-Doping Agency released 1,000 pages of evidence that claim Armstrong led an extremely sophisticated doping network. The evidence was released to explain why they stripped the seven-time Tour de France winner was stripped of his titles. As you know, Lance ended his fight against the doping accusations over the summer, which many considered to be an admission of guilt. Still, Nike continued to endorse him.
That all changed earlier this week when it was revealed that Kathy LeMond, the wife of American cyclist Greg LeMond, testified under oath in 2006 that Nike paid former Union Cycliste Internationale president Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to cover up one of Armstrong’s positive drug tests from 1999. The test at that time revealed Lance used a steroid called corticosteroids to treat saddle sores.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Nike said it “vehemently denies” the report about Verbruggen being paid off to cover up for Armstrong. Paul Willerton, a former professional rider and teammate of Armstrong’s, led a demonstration outside Nike’s headquarters on Tuesday to protest the company’s support of Lance.
“Nike should not condone the behavior that Lance Armstrong has demonstrated for so long,” Willerton said. “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.”
Shockingly enough, Nike finally folded on Wednesday and released an embarrassing statement explaining that they have finally decided to get on board with those who believe Armstrong cheated his way to seven Tour de France titles.
“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 statement read. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner. Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer.”
Kathy LeMond said she stood by her 2006 testimony in an interview with the Daily News on Monday. She said that Julian Devries, a mechanic for Armstrong’s team who was once a close friend of Greg LeMond’s, told her of the USADA payoff in 2006 and that she’s “sure (he) was telling the truth.” Lance’s massage therapist, Emma O’Reilly, later told Kathy LeMond that Devries had been “bought off” and had even begun secretly transporting performance-enhancing drugs for cyclists.
Mark Fabiani, one of Armstrong’s attorneys, insists Lance’s team had no idea what Kathy was talking about when she gave her deposition in 2006 and has no idea what she’s talking about now. Armstrong’s reputation has officially become unsalvageable. Nike will rebound, but being accused of spending half-a-million dollars to cover up a doping scandal isn’t exactly great PR.