Lance Armstrong is the richest cheater to be stripped of a championship or Olympic medal for using performance-enhancing drugs. It isn’t even close.
A compilation of the 41-year-old American cyclist’s earnings by Bloomberg News, using public documents, interviews, court testimony and marketers’ comments, shows part of Armstrong’s business ventures and profit centers. A record seven-time Tour de France winner from 1999 to 2005 before being stripped of the titles by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in August, Armstrong made more than $218 million in a career he later told Oprah Winfrey was “one big lie.” He said he used testosterone, erythropoietin and blood transfusions.
There’s no comparison in terms of wealth between Armstrong and other individual-sport athletes penalized for doping, a group that includes sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones and cyclists Alberto Contador and Floyd Landis, according to Matt Fleming, a senior director at Marketing Arm, a Dallas-based brand consultant.
“If Ben Johnson was a firecracker, Lance Armstrong was the atomic bomb,” Fleming said in an e-mail.
Bill Stapleton, Armstrong’s agent, and Mark Fabiani, Armstrong’s lawyer, did not respond to e-mails seeking comment on the former cyclist’s career earnings.
The duration of Armstrong’s dishonesty, the millions of dollars he raised and followers he gained in the fight against cancer, and his vitriolic denials set him apart, Fleming said.
The cancer charity Armstrong founded, Livestrong, has raised more than $470 million and Armstrong himself is the organization’s biggest private donor, having given almost $7 million, according to the charity.
A major source of Armstrong’s income came from product endorsements and speaking engagements, a figure estimated at $180 million by IEG, a Chicago-based sponsorship consultant. Armstrong pitched companies including Nike Inc., Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley Inc., Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Michelob brand, Trek Bicycle Corp., and nutrition-product companies FRS and Honey Stinger. All of them dropped Armstrong following USADA’s release of a 1,000-page report in October detailing his misdeeds.
“With the number of companies associated with him, the amount of years and the amount of money that was involved, all told, I just don’t see anything that equates to it,” Jim Andrews, senior vice president of content strategy at IEG, said last month following Armstrong’s confession.