- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lance Armstrong’s endorsement value is defying the odds, as four of his biggest sponsors are sticking with America’s most famous cyclist a day after the release of an extensive report into his use of performance-enhancing drugs during his career.

Nike, fitness equipment manufacturer Johnson Health Tech, energy food company Honey Stinger and Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra beer said Thursday they will continue their ties to Mr. Armstrong, who won seven Tour de France championships and survived a near-fatal bout with cancer.

“Our current relationship with Lance remains unchanged,” Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing at Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement.

Honey Stinger said in a statement that “Lance Armstrong is a member of our ownership team and he has played an important part in Honey Stinger’s growth. 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.”

Nike, meanwhile, said they are saddened by the situation but that their position remains unchanged. “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,” said spokesman KeJuan Wilkins.

Johnson’s LIVESTRONG brand is also sticking with Mr. Armstrong. “We stand behind our earlier statement,” spokesman Brian Meehan said. “There’s no changes to it.”

In August, the company said, “In light of the recent developments between the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and Lance Armstrong, Johnson Health Tech (JHT) reaffirms our support of Armstrong and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.”

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday released the 200-page report that included sworn testimony from 26 individuals, including 15 riders, 11 of whom were Mr. Armstrong’s teammates. It detailed his role as the ringleader of a major cycling doping scheme.

Six of the teammates who testified against him and also doped will be suspended for six months starting this past Sept. 1, including Levi Leipheimer, 38, Christian Vande Velde, 36, David Zabriskie, 33, Tom Danielson, 34, George Hincapie, 39, and Michael Barry, 36.

Despite the revelations, companies seem united in the fact that they are supporting Mr. Armstrong’s charity to fight cancer, which they believe is a good cause regardless of whether or not he doped.

Johnson Health Tech “fully supports the great work they do helping families throughout the world overcome cancer’s financial, practical and emotional challenges,” the company continued in its statement. “With each purchase from our LIVESTRONG line of fitness equipment, a donation is made toward their cause. We look forward to continuing our support of Armstrong and the Foundation as they work tirelessly to support people and families affected by cancer, especially those in under served communities.”

Two of Mr. Armstrong’s sponsors, however, are keeping a close eye on the situation, taking a wait-and-see approach, which may be the first sign of backpedaling from these companies.

RadioShack is “continuing to monitor these events closely as the process unfolds,” but the company “remains focused on our shared commitment with Livestrong and the fight against cancer. We don’t intend to discuss this matter any further at this time.”

24 Hour Fitness, a national chain of health clubs, is also monitoring the situation.

One Armstrong sponsor, bicycle component maker SRAM, declined to comment. None of his sponsors, including those mentioned above were willing to discuss the matter in much detail.

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