Nike cuts its ties wtih Livestrong foundation

JIM VERTUNO
Last updated 04:05 29/05/2013

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Nike, which helped build Lance Armstrong's Livestrong cancer charity into a global brand and introduced its familiar yellow wristband, is cutting ties with the foundation in the latest fallout from the former cyclist's doping scandal.

The move by the sports shoe and clothing company ends a nine-year relationship that helped the foundation raise more than US$100 million and made the charity's bracelet an international symbol for cancer survivors.

But the relationship soured with revelations of performance-enhancing drug use by Armstrong and members of his US Postal Service team.

Nike dropped its personal sponsorship of Armstrong last October after US Anti-Doping Agency exposed the team doping program and portrayed Armstrong as its ringleader. And after years of denials, Armstrong admitted earlier this year he used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times.

Officials at Livestrong, which announced the split today, said the foundation remains strong and committed to helping cancer patients worldwide through its survivorship programmes.

Armstrong, who started the charity in 1997 as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, was pushed off the board of directors in October and the organisation later changed its formal name to Livestrong.

In a statement, Livestrong officials said the foundation is "deeply grateful" to Nike.

"Together, we created new, revolutionary ways of thinking about how non-profits fuel their mission and we're proud of that," the foundation said.

Livestrong officials say the charity remains on solid financial ground.

"This news will prompt some to jump to negative conclusions about the foundation's future. We see things quite differently. We expected and planned for changes like this and are therefore in a good position to adjust swiftly and move forward with our patient-focused work," the foundation said.

The foundation said it reduced its budget nearly 11 percent in 2013 to US$38.4 million, but said today that revenue is already 2.5 percent ahead of projections. The foundation also noted that last month, it received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities based on financial health, accountability and transparency.

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