NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The fallout continued Wednesday for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, as he stepped down as chairman of his popular worldwide Livestrong cancer-fighting charity.
Moments later, the news got even worse, as CBS 2’s Chris Wragge reported.
Armstrong, once a seven-time Tour de France winner and a tour de force in the superstar image arena, pulled away from his Livestrong charity so it could focus on its mission instead of its founder’s problems.
“This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart,” Armstrong said in a statement Wednesday. “Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.”
Within minutes of that announcement, one of the few people and organizations that have stood by Armstrong during this ordeal, Nike, made a statement too.
“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,” Nike said. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”
The company said it would continue to support Armstrong’s foundation.
The news Wednesday, on the heels of last week’s U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that ordered 14 years of Armstrong’s career results erased — including his seven Tour de France titles — was just the latest tarnish on Armstrong’s once Teflon image.
“It’s going to take a while to recover from this incident, because he’s now tainted as a cheater; as someone who is very untrustworthy,” said Ben Sturner of the Leverage Agency.
Armstrong will remain on the board of his Livestrong Foundation, but he will hand off chairmanship and will no longer be the face behind the yellow “Livestrong” bracelets. The bracelets sold more than 80 million and created a global symbol for cancer awareness and survivorship.
“We will remain active advocates for cancer survivors and engaged supporters of the fight against cancer,” Armstrong said.
But how will his continued involvement impact the foundation?
“In an organization such as Livestrong, it’s important to get away from any kind of distractions, because at the end of the day it’s about curing cancer,” Sturner said.
While Armstrong was an inspiration to many for a long time, the cycling communities’ retaliation — 26 sworn statements from witnesses, including 11 teammates, detailing a systematic scheme to cheat the system — have now caught up to the man who couldn’t be caught, until now.
Armstrong’s statement said he will remain a visible effort for cancer issues. He is expected to speak this coming Friday night at the 15th anniversary gala for Livestrong in Austin, Texas.