Nike denies role in Armstrong doping cover up

Nike denies role in Armstrong doping cover up
FILE PHOTO - Nike is vehemently denying accusations included in a New York Daily News report that alleges the footwear giant paid to coverup a positive Lance Armstrong drug test. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- As it cuts ties with Lance Armstrong, Nike Inc. is also facing accusations that it paid to cover up a failed drug test for the embattled cyclist.

The New York Daily News on Tuesday reported that Kathy LeMond, wife of three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, testified in a 2006 deposition that she was told by a mechanic for Armstrong's team that Nike wired $500,000 in 1999 to the Swiss bank account of Hein Verbruggen, former president of the Union Cyclist Internationale, cycling's governing body.

The alleged money transfer was to cover up a positive drug test for corticosteroids, which the Daily News reported were used by Armstrong to treat saddle sores. LeMond, in an interview with the Daily News, stood by her testimony, saying she was sure the mechanic, Julian Devries, was telling the truth.

Calling the allegations "offensive," Nike issued a statement Tuesday saying it "vehemently denies that it paid former UCI president Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to cover up a positive drug test. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs."

Paul Swinand, an analyst with Morningstar and avid cyclist, on Wednesday said he was doubtful that Nike would have played such a hands-on role.

“That’s like Nike telling them to change the tires on the bus. They’re just not at that level of detail with the them,” he said. “I’ve been with the team and seen the Nike posse there. They’re the same guys that handle LeBron James. Yes, they’re cycling aficionados and the cycling cognoscenti is hosted by Nike, but it’s not like the Nike handler-type people are telling (them what to do).

“They’re involved in media making. They’re not involved in sport, so why get involved in something like that?”

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU News partner.