Armstrong gear goes on the cheap as doping destroys brand's value John Wilcockson, who has attended 44 consecutive Tours de France and written six books about Lance Armstrong's victories, counts himself among those taken in by the oakley apparel sale confessed doping cheat. Wilcockson's work culminated in the 2010 best seller Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion. In it, he recounted Armstrong's life story, juxtaposing a tale of grit and perseverance with the doping allegations that had been swirling around the cyclist for a decade. The conclusion: Armstrong's life was a triumph of training, strength and will. Now Wilcockson, 69, and others in the far flung world of Lance Incorporated, have to rebrand and retool while reassessing a confessed serial cheater who helped them oakley womens sunglasses make a lot of money. From Armstrong linked sportswear by Nike to Armstrong endorsed energy drinks and Armstrong inspired private cycling trips to the Tour de France, purveyors of the shattered myth of Lance Armstrong are facing a reckoning of their own. "I've been pretty depressed, having written such positive things," said Wilcockson, who has known the 41 year old Armstrong since the cyclist was 16. "Everyone accepted Lance was the champion. They didn't question him because they benefited from his success. That's how the big lie was perpetuated." Armstrong continued lying in his confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey, Travis Tygart, the chief executive officer of the US Anti Doping Agency, said in an interview broadcast on Sunday on the US TV show 60 Minutes. The cyclist doped when he returned to the Tour de France in 2009 and 2010, contrary to what he told Winfrey, said Tygart, whose organisation published a 1000 page report on Armstrong's cheating in October. USADA has given Armstrong until February 6 to fully co operate with its investigators if he wants a chance to reduce his lifetime ban from Olympic level sports. Armstrong's lawyer, Tim Herman, released a letter to USADA on Friday saying that Armstrong cannot meet with agency investigators by that deadline because of "pre existing obligations". Mark Fabiani, an Armstrong spokesman, said the letter would stand as the cyclist's response to Tygart's comments. Herman wrote that Armstrong was willing to work with the World Anti Doping Agency and cycling's international oakley boots governing body in a truth and reconciliation commission. After the USADA report, sponsors including Nike, Oakley sunglasses, the brewing giant Anheuser Busch InBev and the Trek Bicycle Corporation dropped Armstrong. The cyclist told Winfrey that the lost sponsors cost him $US75 million ($72.2 million). Legal battles over Armstrong's doping continue. He faces civil suits in the US and Britain, including a complaint filed last week over his autobiographies. How deeply the truth will hurt the businesses and careers nurtured by Armstrong's fame is beginning to come into focus. While the cycling boom over the past decade is likely to continue, products directly tied to Armstrong such as apparel are being heavily discounted in clearance sales. In addition, cycling tours of Europe are suffering and prospects for ratings and advertising gains on televised cycling races look slim, analysts say. "The sport continues to lose a significant portion of the limited credibility it has," said Greg Janetos, a former currency and carbon credit trader in Mill Valley, California, who rides his $US3000 bike more than 150 kilometres a week."You have to start from the assumption that the field is [doping]." Tim Blumenthal, president of the Bikes Belong Foundation, a cycling advocacy group based in Boulder, Colorado said Armstrong's fame and commercial endorsements while he was winning seven consecutive Tours de France from 1999 to 2005 turned cycling into "a central theme or backdrop" in print and electronic advertising, making "bicycling more mainstream, less of a quirky, European subculture". As a result, US sales of road bikes surpassed mountain bike sales in 2010 and accounted for almost 25 per cent of all bicycles sold all oakley sunglasses in the US in 2011, up from 16 per cent in 2005, according to the American National Bicycle Dealers Association's website. While unit purchases of bicycles in the US fell 19 per cent to 15.7 million between 2002 and 2011, dollar sales rose 13 per cent to $US6 billion in 2011, the association says. "We started selling more $5000, $6000, $7000 and $8000 bikes during Lance's heyday, and that has endured past Lance," Blumenthal said. "I don't expect Lance's fall to affect the bike business." US bicycle racing also fed on Armstrong's popularity. Licensed membership in USA Cycling, the sport's governing body, grew 45 per cent to almost 71,000 between 2004 and 2011. In those same years, the number of sanctioned races rose 42 per cent to 3026 and the number of racing clubs climbed 79 per cent to 2569, USA Cycling's 2011 annual report says. "Lance raised the waters for the entire bicycle industry," said Chris Kegel, owner of Wheel Sprocket, a chain of bike shops based in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. Kegel estimated that Armstrong's success "easily" boosted road bike sales 20 per cent. "When Lance started winning, it reinvigorated the whole road bike market," he said. Nike said when it dropped Armstrong that it would continue to "support" Livestrong, without elaborating. Livestrong, the largest athlete founded charity in the US, with more than $US470 million raised since 1997, severed ties with Armstrong following the USADA report. The cyclist apologised to Livestrong staff at the organisation's offices in Austin, Texas, before his interview with Winfrey, and he later said that losing the foundation was "the most humbling moment" of the fallout from the USADA report. Athletes for Hope, a six year old Maryland based charity co founded by Armstrong cut ties with him after he admitted doping, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. In the 1980s, Amgen pioneered the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulates production of red blood cells and is used to treat anaemia. It became one of the main doping substances used by Armstrong and others. Amgen sold $US968 million worth of EPO drugs in the fourth quarter of last year, down 5 per cent from a year earlier. Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, California, worked closely with Livestrong to make cycling a focal point of the company's cancer awareness program, Breakaway from Cancer. The company also sponsors cycling events, including the Amgen Tour de California, in which Armstrong rode.
No Amgen executives were available to discuss the company's links to Armstrong, cycling and EPO, an Amgen spokeswoman, Ashleigh Koss, said. The Tour de California had given Amgen "a platform" to educate cancer patients and their families about the disease, "from prevention through survivorship", Koss said. "We have supported anti doping efforts and education campaigns," including collaborating with organisations such as the World Anti Doping Agency, she said.
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