Lance Armstrong's Sponsors Say They Stand By Him Despite Doping Accusations
Lance Armstrong could lose millions in winnings and endorsements fees if he is stripped of his racing titles, but so far his major sponsors say they have no intention of dropping Armstrong, largely because of his work with the Livestrong Foundation.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency today 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 remains to be seen whether Armstrong will lose his titles.
"The status of various titles, and financial awards, is really not up to USADA. The governing bodies of each of the respective races will have to decide whether they are going to respect USADA's rulings. So all of that remains to be seen at this point," the source said.
The organizer of the Tour de France, Amaury Sport Organization, is not commenting about the USADA's statements.
Armstrong retired last year and has been since racing in triathlons.
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, is standing staunchly beside him.
"With his help, the foundation has raised close to $500 million to further the fight against cancer and serve those affected by the disease," vice chairman and founding chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation Jeffery C. Garvey said in a statement on Thursday.
Garvey said Armstrong "personally contributed nearly $6.5 million to propel his foundation's services to cancer survivors and their families."
The sponsors of Armstrong and his foundation are also not wavering.
A spokesman for Nike provided a statement, saying: "We are saddened that Lance Armstrong may no longer be able to participate in certain competitions and his titles appear to be impacted. 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."
Nike, which will not release figures for their athlete endorsements, is Armstrong's major sponsor.
Forbes, however, estimates that Armstrong could lose at least $50 million in product endorsements over the next five years.
But no one has announced they are backing out yet.
Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser-Busch, which is a named sponsor of Livestrong, said, "Our partnership with Lance remains unchanged."
"He has inspired millions with his athletic achievement and his commitment to helping cancer survivors and their families," Chibe said in a statement.
Trek, the bike company with whom Armstrong has a sponsorship agreement, said it is analyzing the situation and following developments. The company also sells two fitness-style bikes that are branded "Livestrong."
Len Zanni, vice president of marketing for Honey Stinger, another sponsor of the foundation is remaining as a sponsor.
"Lance Armstrong is a member of our ownership team and he has played an important part in Honey Stinger's growth," Zanni said in a statement. "We look forward to working with him in this capacity to help increase our sales and build our brand. Additionally, we will continue our support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation as a sponsor of the Livestrong Challenge Series.