In case you missed it earlier today, Lance Armstrong stepped down from his LiveStrong charity (but Rick Reilly says he's still an American treasure!), and Nike fired him with the following terse press release:
Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.
Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer.
I'm not gonna bother defending Lance Armstrong because Lance Armstrong is, by all accounts, a complete prick who probably could have gotten away with it if he hadn't been such a complete prick to everyone. But seriously, fuck Nike. Real fucking brave of Nike to dump a retired athlete well after they'd squeezed every last useful promotional drop out of him, in his doping prime. It's not exactly a huge sacrifice for Nike to cut Armstrong loose today. There are no more Tour de France wins to capitalize on, and now they get a cheap way to stake out the moral high ground, where Nike never, ever belongs.
The false naivete is almost blinding. WHOA HEY NOW THERE'S INSURMOUNTABLE EVIDENCE! WE CAN'T STAND FOR THIS HARRUMPH HARRUMPH HARRUMPH. Like Nike didn't know ages ago that Lance rode up the Pyrenees with four million cc's of oxygenated dinosaur plasma stuffed into his veins. (Meanwhile, according to Greg LeMond's wife, Nike once paid a former UCI president $500,000 to cover up positive drug test.)
Poor, innocent little Nike! They feel so BETRAYED by Lance! They couldn't possibly known that he was doping in a sport in which EVERYONE dopes. They were far too busy lashing Honduran child slaves with Air Jordan shoelaces to notice! Meanwhile, Nike still has Alex Rodriguez on its payroll [Update: Darren Rovell says he's no longer under contract.] So if you're gonna do PEDs, Nike asks that you just not do them too loudly.
And the worst part of that statement is the whole cancer spiel at the end. At this point, cancer has become the ultimate prop for Armstrong, Nike, outraged sportswriters, and everyone else involved in this shitshow. It's a human shield. You can deflect virtually any accusation of hypocrisy and malfeasance simply by yelling, "OH HEY WE DON'T LIKE CANCER" at the end. At a certain point, the idea of Livestrong became less about curing cancer—sorry, cancer awareness—than it did about extolling the virtues of Livestrong and anyone associated with it. There are no more acts of bravery in this episode. It's just a pile of athletes and companies and federal prosecutors all looking to justify their own bullshit. And Nike's example is the most obvious one of all. Hey, Phil Knight. We now have insurmountable evidence that you're a dipshit.