Ryan Lochte qualifies for Olympic trials in return from suspension, says he's staying away from alcohol

Jack BaerYahoo Sports Contributor

Ryan Lochte’s back, everyone. Just not quite how you might remember him.

When we last left one of America’s most accomplished swimmers, he had been suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for 14 months after incriminating himself with an Instagram post showing him hooked up to an illegal IV.

That came only a couple years after receiving a 10-month ban for triggering an international incident by lying about an alleged gas station robbery, five years after the quick cancellation of his bro-tastic “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” show and six years after he capably played a “sex idiot” on NBC’s “30 Rock.” There were a few Olympic medals somewhere in there as well.

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What can we say, the man had a brand. However, with Lochte’s return from suspension on Wednesday, the 34-year-old seems ... pretty different.

Ryan Lochte returns to swimming

Swimming in an official event for the first time since June 3, 2018, Lochte posted a 1:57.88 in a 200 IM time trial at the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships on Wednesday.

That’s the fourth-best time by an American this season and good enough to qualify him for the 2020 Olympic trials, according to SwimSwam. Lochte is also entered in the 100 fly, 100 back, 200 free and 400 IM at Palo Alto this week.

So the 12-time Olympic medalist can still swim pretty fast, though he still has some work to do to carve out a spot on next year’s Olympic team. The bigger personal news for Lochte is that he checked into a rehab center for alcohol addiction last year, and seems to have gone sober outside of a self-reported glass of wine when his second child was born in June.

“I don’t care for [alcohol],” Lochte said in a news conference after the event. “I have bigger and better things going on in my life. I’m glad that I went to rehab and got checked out. It helped me out. It helped put things in perspective in my life, and what is really more important than going out to a bar and getting hammered or doing anything like that. I go home and I get to play with my kids and kiss and hold my wife. That to me is everything.’’

Ryan Lochte posted a strong time in his return from a 14-month suspension. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Ryan Lochte posted a strong time in his return from a 14-month suspension. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In addition to his infant daugher Liv, Lochte also has a two-year-old son named Caiden. He said the family has given him a new outlook as he works to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I’m having fun swimming again. And I haven’t had fun since the 2012 Olympics, Lochte said. “It’s been a long time where I can honestly say I’m stepping out on that pool deck with a big smile on my face, and I owe it all to my kids and my wife. They’ve been my backbone throughout this whole journey these past three years. I’m having fun again. It’s awesome and I owe it all to them.’’

That’s all really encouraging to hear from Lochte, who couldn’t seem to stop reinforcing the talented but self-destructive image he had cultivated during the prime of his career. However, he still has a long road ahead of him before this is truly a successful comeback story in the pool, with both fellow swimmers and personal demons to hold off.

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