LANCE Armstrong is preparing to race again, albeit it in the unfamiliar setting of a masters swimming event.
The self-confessed drug cheat who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles last year has been banned from sanctioned competitive sports events for life. But he is permitted to race against middle aged swimmers because USA Swimming does not recognise the meet.
A keen competitive swimmer before he dominated road cycling, Armstrong has entered the 500, 1000 and 1650-yard freestyle events at the Masters South Central Zone swimming championships to be held at a Texas aquatic centre this weekend.
The US Anti-Doping Agency that imposed a lifetime sporting ban on Armstrong does not drug test at the competition.
While Armstrong confessed to performance-enhancing drug taking in a televised interview with talkshow host Oprah Winfrey in January, he has steadfastly refused to co-operate with USADA. He has argued publicly that a lifetime ban from sport is unfair but has no chance of having his sanction downgraded unless he assists the anti-doping body.
Armstrong has spoken about his passion to compete again but is unable to enter triathlons or sporting events like the New York marathon, which is USADA sanctioned, as long as his present ban stands.
If he co-operated with USADA there is a chance his lifetime ban could be reduced to an eight-year sanction.
Armstrong's entry to the Masters South Central Zone championships has been welcomed by organisers but not by all competitors. According to American reports, local triathlete Jamie Cleveland, who is set to swim against Armstrong at the masters event this weekend, has objected to the disgraced cyclist's participation.