New accusations by former teammates that cycling icon Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs pose a marketing dilemma for RadioShack.
The electronics chain has nurtured extremely high-profile links with Armstrong, its most recent celebrity endorser as RadioShack's mock "Chief Mobility Officer" in a series of TV ads. Then there is the multimillion-dollar sponsorship of Armstrong's Team RadioShack since July 2009.
For years, Armstrong has denied that performance-enhancing drugs helped propel him to seven wins at the Tour de France, considered among the sports world's most grueling competitions, after defeating testicular cancer. To date none of numerous blood tests have proved positive, his lawyers argue.
But stories have popped up for months in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and elsewhere about a federal investigation into Armstrong's alleged use of banned substances.
On Sunday, CBS broadcast a devastating 60 Minutes report that quoted former Tour teammate and friend Tyler Hamilton as saying the Texas cyclist helped him get so-called PEDs and witnessed Armstrong taking the drugs.
Armstrong, through his attorney Mark Fabiani, fired back, calling Hamilton "a confessed liar in search of a book deal." Fabiani called the program's reporting "replete with broken promises, false assurances, and selective reliance on witnesses upon whom no reputable journalist would rely."
Two days after the 60 Minutes report, Nike and Anheuser-Busch InBev, for which Armstrong endorses Michelob Ultra beer, told the Hollywood Reporter that they stand behind the cyclist.
"Our relationship with Lance remains as strong as ever," Nike said. A Michelob Ultra spokesman added: "Lance has performed as an extraordinary athlete in a demanding sport, making him admired by millions who lead active lifestyles. That was our opinion when we signed him, and that is our opinion today."
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