Nike severs ties to Lance Armstrong "with great sadness" in wake of doping report

NEW YORK Nike has severed ties with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong, citing insurmountable evidence that he participated in doping and misled the company about those activities for more than a decade.

The clothing and footwear company said Wednesday that it terminated Armstrong's contract "with great sadness."

"Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner," it said in a statement. Nike Inc., based in Beaverton, Ore., said it plans to continue its support for Livestrong.

Hours later, beer-maker Anheuser-Busch also cut ties with Armstrong without giving a reason for its action. A two-sentence statement from U.S. marketing vice president Paul Chibe said simply, "We have decided not to renew our relationship with Lance Armstrong when our current contract expires at the end of 2012. We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation and its cycling and running events."

Armstrong said Wednesday, just minutes before the announcement from Nike, that he was stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so that the organization can steer clear of the whirlwind surrounding its founder.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report last week detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005.

The document's purpose was to show why USADA has banned him from cycling for life and ordered 14 years of his career results erased — including those Tour titles. It contains sworn statements from 26 witnesses, including 11 former teammates.

Armstrong, who was not paid a salary as chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, will remain on its 15-member board. His duties leading the board will be turned over to vice chairman Jeff Garvey, who was founding chairman in 1997.

Nike has stuck by the athletes that it has endorsed in the past during tumultuous times in their lives, including Tiger Woods.

The company distanced itself from NFL quarterback Michael Vick following a dog-fighting scandal, but by last year, it was backing Vick once again.

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