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UPDATE: Lance Armstrong Withdraws From Swim Meet After Objection Is Raised

Lance Armstrong warms up for the swimming leg of the 2011 Xterra World Championship triathlon in Kapalua, Hawaii (before he was banned from most competitions). This weekend, he'll swim in a Texas meet for masters swimmers.
Hugh Gentry
Reuters /Landov
Lance Armstrong warms up for the swimming leg of the 2011 Xterra World Championship triathlon in Kapalua, Hawaii (before he was banned from most competitions). This weekend, he'll swim in a Texas meet for masters swimmers.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. Armstrong Pulls Out:

After an objection was raised Thursday by FINA, swimming's international governing body, Lance Armstrong has withdrawn from a masters swim meet being held this weekend in Austin, Texas, The Associated Press and other news outlets are reporting.

His decision came shortly after news of his planned participation started to spread, leading to questions about why an athlete who is banned from most international competitions because of doping charges could compete against others in such an event. As we explained earlier, the explanation is basically that masters swimming isn't subject to the authority of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

But FINA wrote to U.S. Masters Swimming to say that its member federations (which include U.S. Masters Swimming) should recognize and respect decisions made by USADA and other such organizations. The FINA statement is posted here.

Our original post — "Why Can Lance Armstrong Race At A Swim Meet?"

On Friday in Austin, Texas, fallen cycling superstar Lance Armstrong will race again.

This time, the man who's been stripped of seven Tour de France titles and banned from competitive cycling because of doping charges will be in a pool, not on a bicycle. The Austin American-Statesman says the 41-year-old Armstrong is set to swim in three events at the Masters South Central Zone Swimming Championships.

This raises an obvious question: Why is he allowed to do this if he's been banned for life from competitive events by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency? After all, that agency's reach extends to cycling, running and (mostly) swimming.

It's because "U.S. Masters Swimming does not fall under the USADA umbrella," as Swimming World reported in January. What's more, Swimming World added Wednesday, "USADA does not monitor United States Masters Swimming competitions... [and] Masters swimmers are not drug tested, no matter the level of competition."

The Associated Press reports that Rob Butcher, executive director of U.S. Masters Swimming, says that while the organization has debated whether Armstrong and other athletes caught or accused of doping should be allowed to compete, "we just stick to the fact that our purpose is encouraging adults to swim."

As for which athletes USADA does monitor, its website says:

-- "Any athlete who is a member of a National Governing Body (NGB).

-- "Any athlete participating at a competition sanctioned by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) or a NGB.

-- "Any international athlete who is present in the United States.

-- "Any other athlete who has given his/her consent to testing by USADA or who has submitted a Whereabouts Filing to USADA or an International Federation (IF) within the previous 12 months and has not given his/her NGB or USADA written notice of retirement.

-- "Any athlete who has been named by the USOC or a NGB to an international team or who is included in the USADA Registered Testing Pool or is competing in a qualifying event to represent the USOC or NGB in international competition.

-- "Any United States athlete or international athlete present in the United States who is serving a period of ineligibility on account of an anti-doping rules violation and who has not given prior notice of retirement from all sanctioned competitions to the applicable NGB and USADA, or the applicable foreign anti-doping agency or foreign sports association."

-- "USADA does testing for International Federations (IFs), other National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Generally, USADA does not test at the Olympic Games. The Local Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and WADA oversee testing at the Games."

The American-Statesman reminds its readers that:

"Armstrong began his competitive life as a swimmer near Dallas, before he began participating in triathlons, then focuing on cycling. Before his lifetime ban from all sanctioned sports, Armstrong had gone back to competing in triathlons, but he's no longer allowed to race in those events."

The newspaper also spoke with "local triathlete Jamie Cleveland, who is set to swim against Armstrong this weekend." He wishes Armstrong wouldn't take part in the meet. "This whole masters swimming is him trying to sidestep his punishment," Cleveland said.

Armstrong is the No. 2 seed in the men's 1,000-yard freestyle race at this weekend's meet. (His "seed time" is 10:40.00.) He's the No. 3 seed in both the 1,650-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle men's races.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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