Lance Armstrong is set to race again, despite his life ban for doping, competing against middle-aged swimmers in a regional Masters championships in his home town of Austin, Texas this weekend.
According to a report in the American-Statesman and confirmed by his spokesman Mark Higgins to the Associated Press, Armstrong has entered the meets' three longest races: 500, 1000 and 1650-yard freestyle. He is seeded second in the 1000 freestyle and third in both the 500 and 1650 events and so could be a contender for victory.
Armstrong is allowed to compete in US Masters Swimming events because the organisation does not fall under the anti-doping rules of the US Anti-Doping Agency that banned Armstrong for life and stripped him of his seven Tour de France victories.
Armstrong always vehemently denied doping during his career and the USADA investigation but then confessed in January during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. He said that he hoped to compete again but then refused to cooperate with USADA’s investigation in doping in professional cycling, missing a chance for his ban to be reduced.
US Masters Swimming does not carry out drug testing and the organisation apparently debated if Armstrong or other athletes who have been caught doping should be allowed to compete.
"Our mission, dating back to the 60s, is we encourage adults to swim," Rob Butcher, executive director of Masters Swimming told the Associated Press. "Lance is a member of USMS so he is eligible to swim."
However not everyone agrees with the decision to allow Armstrong to compete, even if no members of US Masters Swimming have yet made a formal complaint.
“This whole masters swimming is him trying to sidestep his punishment,” local triathlete Jamie Cleveland, who owns Hill Country Running and Texas Ironman Multi-Sport Coaching, is quoted as saying by the American-Statesman.
“I’ve been an endurance athlete all my life. I’ve taken great joy in challenging my limits. It really irks me that (Armstrong) has admitted to doping and he’s shown no remorse.”