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FINA Urges US: Leave Lance On Dry Land

Apr 4, 2013  - Craig Lord

(Article updated after US Masters statement and US media reports with Armstrong quote)

Lance Armstrong, the disgraced former cyclist who doped for a decade, withdrew from a masters swimming event in Texas after FINA, the international federation, wrote to US authorities urging them not to allow him into their sport at competitive level.

Armstrong appeared to have responded to pressure by withdrawing from a masters swimming competition in Texas. Part of that was a statement from US Masters explaining why the former cyclist would not be eligible for racing (see foot of this article).

“I was told all along that I was more than welcome to compete in masters meets by U.S.M.S.,” Armstrong is reported to have said of US Masters Swimming. “Then all of a sudden, I’m not welcome? I don’t get it.”

Here's one way, among many, in which he might just get it: 25 to 40-year-olds still in the elite race pool are eligible to compete - and do compete - in masters competitions. They are subject to full anti-doping controls (even though masters-only swimmers are not). FINA rules forbid them to race alongside banned athletes under the WADA Code, all sports. If such athletes found themselves in a lane next to Armstrong, regardless of it being masters, regardless of it being yards, they could face sanction themselves. Better than the cheat steps aside not the likes of those who would be cheated of their right to fair-play sport and competition.

Swimming's global ruling body today issued the below statement following widespread reports including this short from us.

Lausanne (SUI), April 4, 2013 - Following reports on the media referring the participation of Mr. Lance Armstrong in the Masters South Central Zone Swimming Championships in Texas (USA), FINA would like to clarify that:

1. This national competition is under the jurisdiction of the US Masters Swimming;

2. FINA Rule DC 15.1 states:

“Subject to the right to appeal provided in DC 13, 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 recognised and respected by FINA and its Member Federations.(...)”

Therefore, FINA wrote a letter to the US 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.

Bravo FINA.

Armstrong raced in two Lake Travis relay events in the US but was locked out of of that world, too, Dr Keith Bell, founder of the American Swimming Association, announcing: "Lance Armstrong has been banned for life from competing in any ASA-sanctioned or -hosted event." Armstrong competed as part of the SwimStrong team in the 2011 and 2012 Lake Travis Relay events. 

In a statement that followed the news on FINA's move, US Masters, the body in charge of masters swimming in America, explained why Armstrong would not make it to domestic race waters:

Lance Armstrong is not eligible to race in U.S. Masters Swimming competitions. 

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.