Ryan Lochte’s 14-month ban for use of a prohibited intravenous infusion was the right call, US swimming stars said Tuesday, they just hope athletes in other countries are being held to similarly high standards.
“I don’t think that this punishment would have necessarily been as strict if he was part of certain other federations, to be totally honest,” said Nathan Adrian, whose five Olympic victories include 100m freestyle gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
Lochte, a six-time Olympic champion, was suspended by the US Anti-Doping Agency on Monday for use of the IV, which isn’t allowed even though the infusion involved permitted substances.
“We all understand how harsh USADA is now on our American athletes,” Adrian said on the eve of the US national championships in Irvine, south of Los Angeles.
“It would be nice if the rest of the world kind of did the same thing — felt that they were not there to protect their athletes, that they were there to govern their sport,” Adrian said.
Lochte’s ban was backdated to May 24, the date he received the treatment. The 33-year-old American posted a picture of himself getting the IV on social media, which prompted USADA to open an investigation with which Lochte “fully cooperated” officials said.
Adrian, 29, acknowledged that the complexities of the anti-doping code can be hard to navigate.
“You have to ask a lot,” said Adrian, who said he consults with USA Swimming officials or directly with USADA if he has a question.
He was aware of the prohibition in intravenous infusions — except in the case of medical treatment — thanks to a USADA lecture he was required to attend when training at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
Chase Kalisz, winner of the 200m and 400m individual medley world titles in Budapest last year, said he was made aware of the rule in a similar meeting at the training center three years ago.
Breaststroker Lilly King, who was outspoken in branding rival Yuliya Efimova a drugs cheat at the 2016 Games after the Russian served a 16-month ban, admitted it was “hard to see that happen to a friend and a teammate” but didn’t think Lochte’s punishment was wrong.
“You have to follow the laws and I appreciate that FINA and WADA and USADA and all the doping agencies are cracking down on that now because it’s something that needs to happen,” she said.
‘Those are the consequences’
Simone Manuel, reigning women’s world and Olympic 100m free champion, called it “really difficult and really unfortunate” for Lochte but said “those are the consequences any athlete has to face” for breaking the rules.
Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky noted that there had been few cases among USA swimmers recently of positive tests or “situations” like Lochte’s
“But we’ve seen it a little more on the world stage in various parts of the world,” she said. “I think we all dream of the day when we can get up on the blocks and know that we’re competing against completely clean athletes,” Ledecky said.
Lochte was resuscitating a career disrupted by a 10-month ban for his antics at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Brazilian police determined the American’s claim that he and three teammates were robbed after a night of revelry was largely fabricated.
Along with this week’s championships Lochte will miss next months’ Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo and the 2019 world championships in South Korea.
This week’s meet is the US qualifier for Pan Pacs, and the combined results from Irvine and the Pan Pacs will determine the US world championship team.
Despite Lochte’s latest setback, Adrian said he didn’t doubt that Lochte has every chance of making a fifth straight Olympic team in 2020, even though he’ll be turning 36 during the Tokyo Games.
“You can’t put anything out of the realm of possibility with that guy,” Adrian said.