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Could Lance Armstrong's brand be tainted by doping scandal?

Cyclist Lance Armstrong (C) and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (R) meet with a cancer patient while touring the outpatient cancer center at San Francisco General Hospital on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has released a 1,000-page report documenting alleged use of a wide range of performance-enhancing drugs by retired cyclist Lance Armstrong and his teammates in the Tour de France. Armstrong has denied doping, and has never tested positive, but he hasn’t fought the charges and has been stripped of his titles.

This latest report—issued after Armstrong challenged the U.S. anti-doping agency to provide evidence of his alleged wrongdoing—includes sworn testimony from 11 former teammates. It charges that Armstrong not only doped, but also provisioned other cyclists with banned drugs and treatments, including erythropoietin (EPO), blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids, human growth hormone and masking agents.

Armstrong’s lawyer, Tim Herman, called USADA’s report a “witch hunt,” saying it was “a taxpayer funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories."

Armstrong led the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team to six straight Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2004, and then led team Discovery Channel to a seventh title in 2005. He has also survived cancer, and his Livestrong charitable organization has raised nearly $500 million to help support people fighting and surviving the disease.

“I don’t think that this information is going to help his brand,” says Patrick Rishe, a sports economist at Webster University in St. Louis and director of SportsImpacts.net, a consulting firm. “But I don’t think Nike is going to drop him and I don’t think Livestrong is going to go defunct because of this news."

“The one thing that separates Lance Armstrong from a lot of these other cheaters is that Lance Armstrong beat cancer," Rishe says. "And a lot of people have benefited. I think they’re going to give Lance a pass. They don’t really care about cycling. They care that he raised money.”

Whether international cycling will be further tainted by the latest revelations remains to be seen. The Tour de France and other major cycling events have been racked by repeated doping charges, leading to racing bans, and rescinded titles and medals.

As for the U.S. Postal Service? It faces plenty of problems of its own, even without further exposure to Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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