Cyclist Lance Armstrong will be "stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles after deciding to abandon his long fight against charges” from USADA, and the move leaves Armstrong "vulnerable to a tidal wave of legal claims from sponsors, promotion insurers and even the U.S. government," according to Nathaniel Vinton of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The U.S. Postal Service gave “tens of millions in sponsorship dollars to Armstrong’s teams, and the government may yet try to claw that taxpayer money back.” Armstrong is “one of the defendants in a whistleblower lawsuit" filed by former cyclist Floyd Landis in '10 under the False Claims Act, a law that "allows the Justice Department’s civil division to join plaintiffs in lawsuits that allege a defendant defrauded the U.S. government.” He also may “face litigation from SCA Promotions, a Texas company that paid him a $7.5 million performance bonus in 2006 after a bitter arbitration fight.” The company’s attorney notified Armstrong earlier this summer that the firm “would seek to claw that money back if he was stripped of his titles.” With more than $100M in endorsement fees banked, Armstrong “may be able to spend his way out of that litigation, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever recover the prestige he once enjoyed as one of the planet’s most admired athletes” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/24).
STAND BY YOUR MAN: Longtime sponsor Nike is “standing by” Armstrong, saying in a statement it "plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors." In Portland, Erik Siemers wrote for more than a decade, Armstrong “has been one of the brightest lights in Nike’s galaxy of stars,” and his name adorns “one of the fitness centers on the Nike campus." However, Thursday’s developments presented “just the latest challenge for Nike and its stable of troubled athletes” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/23). ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell wrote even though Nike said that it will continue to stick by Armstrong and his foundation, “things will slowly change.” Rovell: “One has to think that the Livestrong line … will decrease in number. As will the donations to Armstrong's foundation, especially from the people who were inspired to donate by the miracle of his story. It's not as good a story, they'll say” (ESPN.com, 8/23). But in Houston, Randy Harvey writes, “Long after anyone recalls anything about the seemingly interminable controversy over Armstrong, performance-enhancing drugs and his seven Tour de France championships, Livestrong, with its yellow bracelets, will have contributed millions of dollars to fighting cancer.” USADA can “never take that away from Armstrong or the cancer patients who have been given hope because of his foundation” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/24).
MORNING SHOW ROUNDUP: The news of Armstrong abandoning his fight was mentioned early in the broadcasts of all three network morning shows Friday. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan appeared on ABC's "GMA" and said, “This is a very sad day in sports. When you think of Lance Armstrong, you think of what he means to so many people, especially those fighting cancer” (“GMA,” ABC, 8/24). Bicycling Magazine Editor-in-Chief Peter Flax on "CBS This Morning" said Armstrong is “choosing the least-worst option in front of him." Flax: "He’s trying to find a place where he can take the moral high ground and claim he’s the victim of a witch hunt and it’s a damage control move.” CBS’ Armen Keteyian said USADA “has a stake in this politically to prove that Lance Armstrong has been doping to send a message to other athletes” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 8/24). NBCSports.com's Alan Abrahamson on NBC's "Today" said, “People have their own opinions about Lance Armstrong. He is probably the most polarizing figure on the Olympic or international stage.” Abrahamson added, “Cycling needs to take a really hard, solid look at itself and say, ‘We are a sport with a serious, serious issue. We’ve got to start cleaning this sport up’” (“Today,” NBC, 8/24).