Fina pulls plug on Lance Armstrong's plunge back into sport at regional swimming championship

The disgraced cyclist, stripped of his Tour de France titles after admitting use of performance enhancing drugs, will not make his first return to competitve action since the scandal erupted as he has withdrawn from a regional swimming event in Texas after Fina petitioned the organisers to exclude him.

Lance Armstrong competing in the Tour de France in 2009.
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Lance Armstrong is pulling out of the pool.

US Masters Swimming executive director Rob Butcher said Thursday that Armstrong will not swim three distance events in the Masters South Central Zone Swimming Championships at the University of Texas this weekend, after swimming’s international federation body raised objections.

“He doesn’t want to cause any more harm to any more organisations,” Butcher told The Associated Press.

“His interest was around fitness and training. In light of Fina and the other political stuff, he will not be swimming.”.

Butcher said Armstrong withdrew from the event, but he likely did not have a choice after Fina raised objections to his participation.

An Armstrong spokesman did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) banned Armstrong from sanctioned competition for life for his use of performance-enhancing drugs during a cycling career that included seven Tour de France titles.

Butcher said Wednesday that Armstrong, who is a US Masters Swimming member, would be allowed to compete in his 40-44 age group because the master’s event did not fall under USADA drug testing rules.

Fina sent a letter to US Masters Swimming officials, saying that because US Masters Swimming is under its umbrella as a sanctioning body, it must recognise the World Anti-Doping Code and bar Armstrong from competition.

According to the meet event sheets, Armstrong had the second-best qualifying time in the 1,000 freestyle and was No 3 in the 1,650- and 500 freestyle events.

Armstrong, 41, had been pursuing a post-cycling career in triathlons before he was banned by USADA. He denied doping for years until USADA issued a massive report in 2012 detailing drug use by Armstrong and his teams.

In January, Armstrong admitted during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used steroids, blood boosters and other banned performance-enhancing drugs and methods during his career.

Whether it was his choice or not, other competitors for the event are likely happy he will be absent.

“This whole masters swimming is him trying to sidestep his punishment,”said Jamie Cleveland, a local triathlete. “I’ve been an endurance athlete all my life ... It really irks me that [Armstrong] has admitted to doping and he’s shown no remorse.”

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