London: Lance Armstrong, who is serving a lifetime ban from Olympic sports because of serious doping violations, planned to return to athletic competition this week at a masters swimming event that does not test its athletes for drugs.
But after learning of Armstrong’s entry, the International Swimming Federation, on Thursday, put a stop to his plans.
Armstrong, who in January confessed to doping for each of his record seven Tour de France victories, was barred from this weekend’s event and future events sanctioned by US Masters Swimming because that organisation is overseen by swimming’s international federation, which adheres to World Anti-Doping Agency’s rules. Armstrong, 41, received his ban and was stripped of his Tour titles under those rules.
Armstrong, who came clean about his doping partly in an effort reduce his lifetime ban because he so badly wants to compete again, did not respond to a text message seeking comment.
Rob Butcher, the executive director of U.S. Masters Swimming, said he contacted Armstrong’s agent Thursday to tell him that Armstrong could not compete. Armstrong then withdrew from the competition.
“They said, listen, we don’t want to create a P.R. nightmare for you guys, Lance just thought it would be fun to swim with the teammates he has been training with down there in Austin, in his own backyard,” Butcher said.
As soon as Armstrong’s entry into the event — Masters South Central Zone Swimming Championships — was made public Wednesday, officials from the United States Anti-Doping Agency reached out to USA Swimming to make sure Armstrong’s lifetime ban was upheld.
USA Swimming then contacted United States Aquatic Sports, which oversees US Masters Swimming. Eventually, the International Swimming Federation, the international governing body for aquatic sports, was made aware of the situation.
On Thursday, officials from the International Swimming Federation met to discuss the issue and decided that Armstrong should be barred from this weekend’s swimming event and all future U.S. Masters Swimming events.
Armstrong, who has competed as a swimmer since he was child, had planned to compete in the three longest events of the meet, the 500-, 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyles. He was among the top seeds in his events and would have competed in the 40-44 age category.
Butcher said Armstrong has been a member of US Masters Swimming for several years and is still eligible to practice with his Western Hills Athletic Club team in Austin.
But there will be no official races for Armstrong, and some masters swimmers welcome that.