Lance Leaves Discovery, OLN in Limbo

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It’s been more than two weeks since six-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong rode in triumph down the Champs-Elysees. Whether Armstrong will steer his bike in France next July for his cycling team’s new sponsor, Discovery Communications Inc., remained unclear at press time.

When Discovery president Billy Campbell introduced Armstrong at a June press conference announcing a three-year, multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Armstrong’s team (formerly the U.S. Postal Service team), he told reporters he looked forward to seeing the cycling superstar wearing a Discovery jersey when competing for a seventh consecutive Tour de France crown in 2005.

But Armstrong has yet to commit to racing in next year’s Tour. Discovery spokesman David Leavy said company executives don’t expect to discuss next year’s racing schedule with Armstrong until this fall. But he said it’s Discovery’s “hope and expectation” that Armstrong will ride in next year’s race.

Regardless of whether Armstrong competes again in France, Leavy said the company sees opportunities in using the supreme cyclist as an on-air host for programming on Discovery-owned networks ranging from the Travel Channel to Fit TV. Discovery also sees opportunities to develop a new line of men’s and women’s apparel and other merchandise that could be sold in its Discovery Channel Stores, Leavy said.

Comcast Corp.’s Outdoor Life Network, which owns the U.S. television rights to the Tour de France, has said that it may look to take advantage of Armstrong’s popularity and develop new bike races in the United States that it could televise.

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