By Dave Rosenthal
4:08 PM EDT, October 17, 2012
News that Nike is dropping its sponsorship of tainted cyclist Lance Armstrong brought me back to one of the most poignant sections of his first book, "It's Not About the Bike."
Armstrong described the aftermath of his testicular cancer diagnosis in 1996, as corporate sponsors decided he was no longer worth bankrolling. Nike was one of the few sponsors to stand by Armstrong as he recuperated -- despite the possibility that he would never race again. He vowed to be loyal when he returned to competition -- and forged a deep, mutually beneficial partnership with Nike as he won seven Tour de France titles.
Now, though, Armstrong has been hit with allegations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs as he tore up the competition in France and other countries. (As noted in a previous Read Street post, one teammate used a literary nickname for the drug EPO, calling it "Edgar," after Edgar Allan Poe.) Today, Nike dropped Armstrong -- though the company said it would still support the Livestrong brand, the ubiquitous, bright yellow athletic gear that can be found in every gym in America.
Armstrong, who also left the chairmanship of his foundation today, denies the allegations of doping. But all the movement makes me want to demand a refund -- of the time and money spent on Armstrong's book. And I can't imagine anyone wanting to read his memoir -- unless they're looking for hints about his personality.
I imagine the allegations will make folks feel a little less eager to sport the Livestrong brand, as well. What once was an inspiring symbol of beating the odds has become a symbol of a win-at-all-costs mentality. Unless Armstrong can disprove the doping allegations, which were detailed by many former teammates, I bet you'll be seeing a lot fewer yellow wristbands around town.
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