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Lance Armstrong's return to competition sunk

Lance Armstrong's return to competition sunk
CNN
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POSTED: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 5:33pm

UPDATED: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 6:24pm

Even at the age of 41 Lance Armstrong's thirst for competition remains undimmed.

But the disgraced doper's quest to take part in a swimming event in Texas has been sunk before he's even hit the water.

Armstrong was banned from cycling for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency after they accused him of running the "most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program" the sport had ever seen.

He refused to cooperate with USADA's investigation and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, later admitting taking performance enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Armstrong had hoped to compete at the Masters South Central Zone Swimming Championships in his home town of Austin this weekend, thinking it was not subject to USA or World Anti-Doping Agency codes.

But after news of his entry in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650-yard freestyle events, swimming's governing body FINA stepped in to object to his participation.

Now Armstrong's camp say he won't take to the pool.

Rob Butcher, executive director of U.S. Masters Swimming, who are staging the event, told CNN: "The word back is that he is not eligible to participate in our competition because FINA follows the WADA code -- the World Anti-Doping Authority code.

"And, as such, we are bound -- through a couple layers of separation down -- to our events as well.

"So the takeaway is: while he has entered and you'll see him on a heat sheet, he is not eligible to participate in that event. Or any other U.S.M.S competition."

Butcher said upon informing Armstrong's camp on Thursday morning, he will now withdraw from the event.

Butcher added: "After giving them this news, his people, not talking to him directly but his management team, said, 'You know what: we don't want to cause harm to your organization. We're not trying to create a sideshow circus for you guys. He's just going to withdraw or not show up for the event.'"

In a statement issued Thursday, U.S. Masters Swimming clarified its stance on the matter further.

"Lance Armstrong is not eligible to race in U.S. Masters Swimming competitions," it read.

"The former competitive cyclist has been a member of U.S. Masters Swimming for several years. The spirit and purpose of USMS is to encourage adults to swim.

"USMS is affiliated with FINA (Federation Internationale de Natacion) through United States Aquatic Sports.

"When we became aware that Mr. Armstrong entered the 2013 South Central Zone Championship in Austin, Texas, April 5-7, a local event sanctioned by USMS, we contacted United States Aquatic Sports and FINA to clarify our responsibilities in this case. The event in question is conducted in a 25-yard pool, a non-Olympic course not contested on the international stage.

"After discussion with United States Aquatic Sports and FINA, it was agreed that although Mr. Armstrong is eligible for membership in U.S. Masters Swimming, he is not currently eligible to compete in sanctioned swimming competitions, regardless of the type of course.

"The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned Mr. Armstrong from competition. FINA accepts the WADA Code and USMS, as a member of United States Aquatic Sports, recognizes and respects adjudications under the Code."

Armstrong had posted on his Twitter account last month that he was in swimming training but he will now have to wait to make his competitive debut in the pool.

A statement posted on FINA's website confirmed the competition was under the jurisdiction of U.S Masters Swimming and quoted FINA rule DC 15.1.

It reads: "The Testing, therapeutic use exemptions and hearing results or other final adjudications of any Signatory to the Code which are consistent with the Code and are within the Signatory's authority, shall be recognized and respected by FINA and its Member Federations."

As a result they added: "FINA wrote a letter to the U.S. Masters Swimming (with copy to US Aquatic Sports and USA Swimming) requesting not to accept the entry of Mr. Lance Armstrong in the above mentioned competition."

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