Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of cycling’s Tour de France, will compete in 70.3-mile triathlons and a full 140.6-mile one to try to qualify for the sport’s world championship.
The 40-year-old Armstrong, who retired from professional cycling in February 2011 to focus on his Livestrong cancer charity, will make his professional return to triathlon at the Ironman Panama 70.3 race on Feb. 12, according to a press release issued by Livestrong.
“Lance is a fierce competitor and his involvement with Ironman and Ironman 70.3 is good for triathlon,” Andrew Messick, chief executive officer of World Triathlon Corp., said in a statement.
World Triathlon, which owns the Ironman brand, disclosed Armstrong’s participation in its events as part of a partnership with Livestrong. With the agreement, Ironman will be a sponsor of the charity and auction four amateur slots for its world championship, with proceeds going to the charity.
After this weekend’s race in Panama City, Panama, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run, Armstrong will compete in 70.3-mile half Ironman events in Texas in April, Florida in May, and Hawaii on June 2. He will then race a 140.6-mile full Ironman event on June 24 in Nice, France, in his quest to earn enough points to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii on Oct. 13.
Armstrong competed as a professional triathlete at age 18 before focusing on cycling. He finished fifth in the Xterra USA Championship off-road triathlon in Utah in September, before committing to the Ironman races.
He won the Tour de France, cycling’s most prestigious event, each year from 1999 to 2005 after surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs.
On Feb. 4, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles ended a criminal drug probe involving Armstrong and his professional bicycle racing team without filing charges.
The joint investigation with special agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Service looked into doping allegations involving the cycling champion and his team.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the U.S., is continuing its investigation of Armstrong and the World Anti-Doping Agency asked this week for federal authorities to turn over any evidence they uncovered.
Armstrong has denied using banned performance-enhancing drugs and has passed almost 500 tests over 20 years of competition, Mark Fabiani, his attorney, has said.
His Austin, Texas-based Livestrong charity has raised more than $325 million, according to its website.