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Lance Armstrong leaves charity, dropped by Nike

Lance Armstrong, shown in 2009, is stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong charity.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong, shown in 2009, is stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong charity.

AUSTIN, Texas — Already an outcast in cycling after a massive doping report, Lance Armstrong absorbed hits much closer to home Wednesday: to his wallet and his heart.

Armstrong gave up the top spot at Livestrong, his beloved cancer-fighting charity and was dumped by Nike, Anheuser-Busch, and other sponsors, a week after an anti-doping agency released evidence of drug use by the seven-time Tour de France winner.

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Armstrong stepped down as chairman of Livestrong in an attempt to minimize the damage caused by the US Anti-Doping Agency’s massive report last week detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong.

The USADA banned Armstrong from the sport for life and has ordered that his Tour titles be stripped, which could come before the end of the month.

‘‘This organization, its mission, and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart,’’ said Armstrong. ‘‘Today, therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.’’

Minutes later, Nike dropped its personal sponsorship contract with him and issued a blistering statement that the company was duped by his denials over the years.

‘‘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,” the company said. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in any manner.’’

In 2001, the apparel company produced an anti-doping commercial, narrated by Armstrong, addressing allegations that he had used performance-enhancing drugs by mocking the question, ‘‘What am I on?’’ and answering that he trained on his bicycle ‘‘six hours a day.’’

Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch followed Nike’s lead, saying: ‘‘We have decided not to renew our relationship with Lance Armstrong when our current contract expires at the end of 2012.’’

Soon after, other sponsors also cut ties with him. Among them were Trek bicycles and Honey Stinger, a maker of foods and gels for athletes.

‘‘We are in the process of removing Lance Armstrong’s image and endorsement from our product packaging,’’ a Honey Stinger spokesman said. An image of Armstrong’s signature that was on the site’s front page earlier in the day appeared to be gone late Wednesday.

If there was a silver lining in the day for Armstrong, it was that his major sponsors said they will continue to support the charity, which started as the Lance Armstrong Foundation 15 years ago.

Armstrong will remain on the charity’s 15-member board. The duties of leading the board will be turned over to vice chairman Jeff Garvey, who was founding chairman in 1997.

Armstrong denies doping despite the USADA report. He claims to have passed hundreds of drug tests but chose not to fight the USADA in one of the agency’s arbitration hearings, saying the process was biased.

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