Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps beats Ryan Lochte for first time since Olympics

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Michael Phelps notched another mark in his comeback, defeating Ryan Lochte for the first time since the London Olympics on Friday.

Phelps, in his fourth meet after a 20-month retirement, won a 100m butterfly in Athens, Ga., in 51.67 seconds. His longtime rival Lochte, in his first meet since April, took second in 53.08.

Phelps’ time made him the second fastest man in the event this year, according to SwimVortex.com. He improved by nearly a half-second on his 100m fly finals times from the first three meets of his comeback — 52.13, 52.13 and 52.11.

“I wanted to get under 52,” Phelps said. “I’m sick and tired of seeing 52.1. I guess it was what, seven hundredths off the No. 1 time in the world, so, I guess it’s a decent swim.

“I would have liked to have had the No. 1 time in the world.”

Phelps is the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion, winning in 51.21 in London.

Phelps and Lochte raced once before this year, in a 100m fly in Phelps’ first return meet in April. There, Lochte won 51.93 to 52.13.

“I hope I lose,” Lochte said. “It will just make me more hungry. I hate to lose, and it pisses me off. [Phelps] swam a fantastic race [Friday]. It was really fast.”

Lochte is working his way back from aggravating a November knee injury in April. The 11-time Olympic medalist also won a 200m freestyle consolation final Friday.

Lochte clocked 1:48.69 in the 200m free, which would have placed fourth in the A final won by Olympic and World champion Yannick Agnel. Lochte missed the eight-man A final because he was 14th fastest in the morning preliminary heats. Phelps recorded a 1:48.2 in the 200m free on June 19.

The Bulldog Grand Slam continues Saturday with Phelps scheduled to swim the 100m backstroke. Phelps, Lochte and others are preparing for the U.S. Championships, Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, Calif., which serve as a selection meet for the Pan Pacific Championships, Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

“This is always a big summer for U.S. swimmers because we pick two teams,” Phelps said. “So, you really have to be ready this year. If you’re not, you’re pretty much sitting around until [2016] Olympic Trials.”

In other events Friday, five-time 2012 Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt won the women’s 200m free in 1:58.16, out-touching Olympic relay and former University of Georgia teammate Shannon Vreeland by .18.

Olympian Micah Lawrence took the women’s 100m breaststroke in 1:08.5, nearly one second slower than her best time this year. Nic Fink won the men’s race in 1:01.69.

Melanie Margalis won the women’s 400m individual medley in 4:39.84, making her the third-fastest American this year.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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AVP set to start season without Kerri Walsh Jennings

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BOSTON (AP) — The AVP said it has reached an agreement with “practically all the players” on a contract that will carry it through the 2020 Summer Games, even as a holdout by five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings threatens to deprive the domestic beach volleyball tour of its biggest name.

“I respect her decisions, and I wish her well,” AVP owner Donald Sun told The Associated Press. “But in the meantime, we’re just geared up. All the athletes that are signed are fired up to play Huntington Beach next weekend.”

Walsh Jennings did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment. But she told the AP in March that negotiations were “a work in progress” and that the two sides were “pretty far off.”

She also boycotted an AVP event last summer over experimental rules that she said weren’t discussed with the athletes.

Each of the other seven Americans who went to the 2016 Olympics has signed, Sun said, except for Brooke Sweat. Sweat, who failed to make it out of group play in Rio de Janeiro with teammate Lauren Fendrick, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Sun told the AP that the tour has “a four-year agreement with practically all the players, which is awesome.” The deal includes a minimum of eight events per season and prize money minimums that will increase by at least 50 percent over the term of the deal, he said.

“It was a few months of process, discussing with individual players, groups of players, discussing what concerns they had,” Sun said. “We all made it. I think we’re all pretty happy.”

Well, not everyone.

The rift with Walsh, a three-time gold medalist who won bronze with April Ross in 2016, was exposed when the tour released its 2017 schedule in March and her name wasn’t among the list of those expected to participate.

Sun told the AP this week that the tour is prepared to proceed without Walsh Jennings, who has missed events previous summers because of injury, childbirth or to play on the international tour that determines Olympic qualification.

“It didn’t seem to affect attendance, TV ratings, or viewership on line,” Sun said. “The AVP is not just one person or one athlete; if it was, it would be a very challenging business model.”

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