Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 9/22/14
Statement by Nike founder Phil Knight (10.15.12): In light of the revelations of the past week, Nike has been forced to re-examine and re-evaluate its relationship with Lance Armstrong. Nike and Lance have enjoyed a long and multifaceted relationship. Nike strongly supports Lance’s dedication to the fight against cancer. His selfless commitment to his LIVESTRONG Foundation is truly admirable. Lance’s struggle with and triumph over cancer represents the sort of heroic battle that Nike stands squarely behind. That said, the evidence presented in USADA’s voluminous case against Lance saddens us. Like many Americans, we’re struggling to understand the deceit, dishonesty, and cheating that appears to have defined Lance’s previously storied cycling career. We’re dismayed that the entirety of Lance’s career appears to have been built on the soft foundation of cheating and lies. After careful deliberation and consideration, we’ve concluded that Nike can no longer continue to be associated with Lance. Nike has always endeavored to stand for integrity and honest effort. We support champions who take no shortcuts and model honesty and integrity. We’re saddened by the realization that Lance’s success was built on violating the rules that govern fair and equitable competition. The evidence presented by USADA is clear and undeniable; Lance cheated over the entirety of his career. Even worse, he forced his teammates to participate in his reckless doping program. This reckless pharmaceutical abuse required Lance and his teammates to assume considerable and often unknown risks. The long-term effects of Lance’s irresponsibility remain to be determined. Lance cheated; there’s simply no way to ignore that reality. The example he set for athletes young and old has been conclusively demonstrated to be fraudulent. Nike cannot and will not be associated with cheaters. Perhaps Adidas will have him. The above statement never happened, of course, nor is it likely to. That’s something everyone associated with Nike should be ashamed of. After the Tiger Woods debacle, you might have believed Phil Knight’s empire would be extremely sensitive to public perception and opinion. You would have been wrong. WAY wrong. Nike has insisted that it will stand by Armstrong, though what it stands to gain by being associated with a cheater is unclear. The implied message in Nike’s position is that it values winning over anything and everything else. Integrity and honest effort don’t sell shoes; winning does, and in Phil Knight’s eyes, Lance Armstrong is a winner. Except that he’s not. Running through Armstrong’s seven Tour de France titles and his legacy is the reality that he cheated from beginning to end. Like many who believed in Armstrong for so many years, I’m still struggling with the scope and enormity of his fraud. I was duped. Less than two months ago in this space, I unreservedly declared my continued support for Armstrong: Armstrong's story, one of courage, cancer, victory, and commitment, is one for the ages; over the years he's been an inspiration to millions. A cancer survivor, Armstrong won the Tour de France, cycling’s biggest prize, seven consecutive times. Yet even with all that success, there were those absolutely convinced that Armstrong cheated his way to the maillot jaune….. USADA has been after Armstrong for years ... yet Armstrong has never failed a drug test. Not once. It’s true that Armstrong never failed a drug test … primarily because of the lengths he went to in order to avoid testers. And the number of tests Armstrong passed was nowhere near the number he and his apologists claimed. Without USADA laying its cards on the table, I and millions of other fans will come down on the side of an athlete who’s been tested hundreds of times and never failed a test. Not once. PROVE it. Well, guess what? USADA has the evidence. They laid their cards out. They proved it. They put their entire case against Armstrong on their website, and the picture the evidence paints is stunning in its depravity. The depth and breadth of Armstrong’s cheating defies the imagination, as does his sheer, balls-to-the-wall mendacity. Prior to the USADA releasing its evidence, I found it difficult to believe Armstrong could have been so evil and dishonest. Lance Armstrong somehow found an ingenious and brilliant way to fool doping agencies hundreds of times over the course of his career. He cheated and somehow never got caught. I can't imagine how he could have accomplished it, but he did it. Without USADA producing the evidence and witnesses to Armstrong’s alleged cheating, the idea that he cheated for years while somehow passing hundreds of drug tests defies rational explanation. The short version is that Lance Armstrong is a liar, a thug, and a cheater. He did in fact find an ingenious and brilliant way to fool doping agencies. By identifying and manipulating the holes in cycling’s doping control system, Armstrong nimbly maneuvered his way through a self-created maze without getting caught. While friends and teammates were revealed to be dopers and cheaters, Armstrong deftly managed to remain above the fray. Maintaining the patina of innocence was no easy undertaking. It meant occasionally threatening former friends, teammates, and employees with ruination by promising to bury them in lawsuits if they spoke out. Those who knew the depth and breadth of Armstrong’s depravity and dishonesty were bullied into silence. The evidence presented by USADA reveals Lance Armstrong to be a thug without a soul or conscience. He’s a sorry excuse for a human being whose primary and only concern was doing whatever it took to maintain the charade. I’m embarrassed to have been so strident in my defense of Armstrong. His passionate profession of his innocence seemed sincere and unimpeachable, and I came down firmly on his side. I believed him when he insisted that USADA was conducting an immoral witch-hunt against him. I took him at his word because I wanted- no, I needed- to believe him. Man, I was such a schmuck… I’m still trying to wrap my head around the enormity and scope of Armstrong’s mendacity and hypocrisy. I wonder how he can look at himself in the mirror without being repulsed. Judging by the years spent vociferously defending himself against all suspicion and skepticism, it’s difficult to believe that Armstrong possesses anything resembling character or a moral compass. Armstrong will have to live with the disgrace he’s brought on himself. He’ll have to explain to his children that their father is a liar and a cheater who spent years profiting from being a fraudulent champion. He’ll have to tell them that the lessons he tried to teach them about honesty and integrity were themselves dishonest and devoid of integrity. How Armstrong will manage that is anyone’s guess. I’m not about to waste energy considering his predicament. Nike will need to find a way to justify maintaining a relationship with an athlete exposed as a world-class liar and cheater. Those who work for Nike will have to find a way to square their own moral compass with the reality that their employer appears to lack one. Perhaps even worse, parents will undoubtedly have very difficult conversations with their progeny. They’ll have to find a way to convince their children that cheaters don’t prosper. This flies in the face of the truth; Armstrong has shown that cheaters in fact can and do prosper. It’s a quandary I’m glad I won’t have to address. After years of taking Lance Armstrong at his word and believing that he was innocent, the truth is what it is. The preponderance of evidence against him is undeniable. Armstrong is a liar, a cheater, a thug, and a miserable excuse for a human being. My dilemma is that I still admire Armstrong’s efforts to fight cancer via his LIVESTRONG Foundation. In time, perhaps I’ll be able to separate Lance the Cheater from Lance the Philanthropist. At this point, though, only one word comes to mind when I consider Armstrong’s legacy: CHEATSTRONG.
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