AUSTIN, Texas – Lance Armstrong is looking to make a splash with a return to competition.
The disgraced cyclist is signed up to swim three events this weekend at the Masters South Central Zone Swimming Championships at the University of Texas. Armstrong spokesman Mark Higgins said Wednesday that Armstrong, 41, will compete in the 40-44 age group in the 500-, 1,000- and the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Rob Butcher, executive director of U.S. Masters Swimming, said the organization is not covered under the same anti-doping rules as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which banned Armstrong for life from its sanctioned events for his performance-enhancing drug use during his cycling career.
“Our mission, dating back to the 60s, is we encourage adults to swim,” Butcher said. “Lance is a member of USMS so he is eligible to swim.”
But the U.S. Master’s Swimming website suggests U.S. Masters Swimming falls under the umbrella of FINA, the international swimming federation, which is covered by the World Anti-Doping Code that bars Armstrong from competing. The website portion covering rules links to the FINA Masters rules, which states FINA adopted the World Anti-Doping Code in 2007.
Butcher and Higgins did not immediately respond to emails Wednesday night seeking clarification.
U.S. Master’s Swimming does not drug test. Butcher said earlier in the day U.S. Masters Swimming has debated in the past whether to start testing and whether Armstrong or other athletes who have been caught doping should be allowed to compete.
“We just stick to the fact that our purpose is encouraging adults to swim,” Butcher said.
Armstrong had been pursuing a post-cycling career in triathlons before he was banned by USADA for performance-enhancing drug use. A message was left seeking comment from USADA.
Armstrong had to register for the Austin event by March 31. According to the meet event sheets, Armstrong has the second-best qualifying time in the 1,000 and No. 3 in the 1,650 and 500.