Ryan Lochte must draw on painful past to make Olympic team

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OMAHA — Ryan Lochte has fractured a shoulder falling out of a tree. He tore a meniscus break dancing. He tore an MCL and sprained an ACL landing on a curb after a fan ran into him.

He fractured his foot in a scooter accident, sprained an ankle chasing his Doberman, Carter, strained an MCL reaching for a cellphone in his car and has hurt himself skateboarding and been in a motorcycle accident.

“He’s always been a guy that lives on the edge a little bit,” said Gregg Troy, Lochte’s longtime coach at Florida. “He’s really adept at dealing with injury.”

But to have the injury occur inside the pool, in his first race at the Olympic Trials? That’s a new one for the 11-time Olympic medalist.

Lochte must now draw on his ability to swim through pain to make his fourth Olympic team this week. The world’s best swimmer four years ago, Lochte is no certainty to make the Rio Olympics.

“He’ll be dealing with some level of pain management through the meet now,” his coach, David Marsh, said.

By now you know Lochte pulled a groin in the breaststroke leg of his 400m individual medley preliminary heat here Sunday morning.

And he then finished third in the final eight hours later, failing to make the two-man U.S. team in the only event he won at the 2012 London Games.

Lochte, at age 31, is older than any swimmer from any nation who has ever raced the 400m IM at the Olympics, according to sports-reference.com. What they call the decathlon of swimming is not a seasoned man’s race.

Lochte said this two weeks after the London Olympics, when he swore off the 400m IM: “I’m getting older. My body’s getting older, so I can’t do those long events.”

Yet there he was Sunday night, with a 2.94-second lead after the first 200 meters. Lochte returned to the 400m IM in earnest this season and went into Trials as a favorite.

But few knew of his injury as he swam Sunday night.

Lochte and Marsh talked strategy in the afternoon. The groin problem would most impact him on the breaststroke, primarily a leg-based stroke.

“I thought about this morning, about scratching, but it’s the Olympic Trials,” Lochte said. “If I had a broken leg, I’d still go out there and swim.”

They adjusted his breaststroke kick in his final warm-up before the race. Lochte was on a massage table 20 minutes before he was introduced to a thunderous roar from the sold-out crowd.

Lochte slowed during that breaststroke leg, from 200 meters to 300 meters of the 400-meter race. He looked stuck in Jell-O as Chase Kalisz passed him with about 125 meters to go.

Finally, Jay Litherland went by Lochte in the final 25 meters, erasing a 3.35-second deficit halfway through the race.

“That hurt a little,” were Lochte’s first words to media after he left the pool deck and descended down a flight of stairs. “I couldn’t use my legs in breaststroke. I did everything I could in that race. It just wasn’t enough.”

Truth is, Lochte has such a history with groin flare-ups that Marsh before the final consulted Troy, his coach through 2013, for how he handled similar situations.

“That groin problem, he’s had that for years,” Troy said. “We went one whole summer with it before.”

Which summer was that?

“He’s had something every year,” Troy said. “It’s not unusual for him.”

Under Troy, Lochte won major international meet gold medals every summer from 2006 through 2013 (Olympics, World Championships, Pan Pacific Championships). Save 2007, when worlds were in the spring, but you get the point.

Lochte is used to swimming, and winning, through injury.

“He is somebody who will bounce back,” said Michael Phelps, who after finishing fourth in the 400m IM at the London Olympics went on to win six medals in six races. “He’s got a full plate and a full schedule this week, and I would assume he would use this as motivation to get going.”

Lochte’s slate the rest of the week:

200m freestyle — Monday and Tuesday
100m freestyle — Wednesday and Thursday
200m backstroke — Thursday and Friday
200m individual medley — Thursday and Friday
100m butterfly — Friday and Saturday

The best chance will come in the 200m freestyle, for two primary reasons. Lochte is seeded first in that race as the fastest American since 2014. The top six finishers will likely make the Olympic team as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay pool.

The other events are riskier.

Lochte has never raced the 100m free at an Olympics or world championships (but, again, the top six will likely make the Olympic team for the relay).

The 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley finals will be in the same session and are two of the deepest men’s events. The 200m back includes the 2012 Olympic champion Tyler Clary and Ryan Murphy, one of USA Swimming’s young stars.

Phelps looms in the 200m IM, as does Kalisz and Conor Dwyer, who made the team in the 400m free Sunday night.

Phelps is there again in the 100m butterfly, as is Tom Shields, who beat Phelps at the 2014 U.S. Championships.

Lochte didn’t give much away in speaking with the media for about two minutes Sunday night.

“Probably not making the team [in the 400m IM] affects his mental state more than the throbbing, if anything,” Marsh said.

Marsh regretted not pulling Lochte out of the 400m IM final, but said he was assured Lochte would not do extra damage by racing.

“And Ryan actually deals with pain better than most human begins,” Marsh said.

MORE: Phelps drops Olympic Trials event

Russian skiers banned from Olympics allowed to race World Cup opener

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics can compete in World Cup races this weekend because the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been unable to prosecute its own cases in time.

Six Russians, including two Sochi medalists, were retroactively disqualified from the Winter Games this month and banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC.

FIS previously blocked all six from competing with interim suspensions, but those expired on Oct. 31. The International Olympic Committee judging panel then reached its verdicts this month.

However, FIS said Thursday that its own judicial body lacks key IOC documents to process cases.

“Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on,” said the governing body, which is responsible for imposing competition bans.

“As a consequence the active athletes are eligible to compete in FIS including World Cup competitions for the time being,” FIS said.

The World Cup season for men and women begins Friday in Ruka, Finland, with sprint and long-distance racing.

Organizers had not published starting lists Thursday for the three-day meeting and it was unclear which of the six intend to start.

Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin both won multiple medals in Sochi but were stripped by the IOC. The others suspended by the IOC were Evgeny Belov, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova.

FIS said rules governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency meant it could not re-impose interim bans without “a specific allegation” plus evidence.

Attempting to assure cross-country skiers they will not be competing against doped rivals, FIS said an additional and independent testing program for Russians has been in operation since June and has taken about 250 blood and urine samples.

The three-man IOC disciplinary panel — chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and member of the Olympic body’s executive board — has not issued detailed reasons for judgments in 10 cases from Sochi so far completed in cross-country skiing and skeleton.

Without positive doping tests, the panel used evidence of state-backed cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles in the Sochi laboratory first gathered last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren.

At least 18 more Russian athletes are having their cases prosecuted in an ongoing series of hearings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On Wednesday, the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said it would update “within the next days” action against four Russians, including the Sochi gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina won a skeleton World Cup race last weekend in Park City, Utah — a result which may soon be overturned by the IBSF.

All the Russian athletes disqualified by the IOC can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Dec. 5, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce after a board meeting if the Russian team will be banned from the Olympics, which open Feb. 9 in PyeongChang.

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MORE: IOC sets date, time to announce Russia Olympic decision

Aly Raisman shifts focus from 2020 Olympics to new role

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The people come forward to Aly Raisman almost daily now.

Random strangers. Men and women of various ages, races and backgrounds.

They see the six-time Olympic medal winning gymnast out in public and approach with a hug to give and a story to tell.

It was jarring at first, if Raisman is being honest.

When she pitched her autobiography “Fierce” to publishers last summer shortly after the 2016 Olympics, she intended to focus on her journey from tenacious prodigy to champion.

And while all of that is in there, the part of her experience that’s resonated the most since the book’s release earlier this month is the one she wasn’t sure she’d be able to share.

It’s Chapter 22, titled “The Survivors.”

In it, Raisman outlines how she was abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar, how he “groomed” her by presenting himself as a friendly ear and how she feels he was empowered to continue over the course of years by those in charge at USA Gymnastics.

Raisman spent weeks working on the section, revisiting it again and again, trying to get it just right. Or at least as close to right as she can get.

“I put in a ton of thought whether how I wanted to come forward about this,” Raisman said. “What I realized at the end of the day is that I want change and I want people to understand what exactly abuse is. It’s very complicated. It’s very confusing. I didn’t know that I was being abused because I was manipulated so horribly.”

In the process, Raisman discovered the abuse Nassar committed against other female athletes — including allegations from Olympic teammates McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas — is a very small part of a much larger problem that extends far beyond the actions of just one man.

It’s why she took those painful memories and put them on paper, to share with the world that, as she said over and over again, “It’s not OK. It’s never OK.”

The 23-year-old’s new calling makes thinking about a return to competition in time for the 2020 Olympics seem trivial.

“This is the focus,” Raisman said.

A focus that has turned her into an unexpected symbol of strength for others who share their experiences.

“Unfortunately sexual abuse is far too common,” Raisman said. “I’ve realized how many people are affected by it and it’s disgusting. That’s why I want change.”

Raisman has become an increasingly outspoken critic of USA Gymnastics, blaming the governing body for a lack of oversight on Nassar’s conduct.

The 54-year-old spent nearly 20 years as the team doctor for the U.S. women’s elite program, often working with athletes one-on-one.

Raisman declined to get into specifics about the abuse she was subjected to but her experience falls in line with what many other have claimed against Nassar: that he touched them inappropriately while describing it as proper treatment.

Nassar pleaded guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault in Michigan on Wednesday and will face at least 25 years in prison.

He still faces additional criminal charges and has been named in more than 125 civil lawsuits filed by former athletes.

Nassar’s downfall began following reporting by the Indianapolis Star in 2016 that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of USA Gymnastics’ more than 3,500 clubs across the country.

Raisman has not taken any legal action yet against Nassar, though she’s not ruling it out.

Her larger concern is educating young athletes and their parents on the warning signs while also loudly clamoring for change.

She has seen a familiar pattern repeat itself over the last 18 months: another gymnast comes out claiming abuse by Nassar, and USA Gymnastics follows with a press release attributed to no specific individual that praises them for their courage.

One of the most decorated Olympic athletes of her generation doesn’t just want words. She wants action.

USA Gymnastics has taken several steps in recent months.

President and CEO Steve Penny resigned under pressure in March and was replaced by Kerry Perry, who takes over on Dec. 1.

The organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport over the summer.

Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting.

The federation also adopted over 70 recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw an extensive independent review.

It’s not enough for Raisman.

She points out Penny wasn’t fired but instead forced out.

Though Nassar’s relationship with USA Gymnastics officially ended in 2015 after an athlete came forward about potential abuse, he was still allowed to continue working at Michigan State University while also volunteering at a USA Gymnastics-affiliated club.

“That is just unacceptable to me,” Raisman said. “(That gym) is a part of USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics is responsible for kids at that gym. Instead of doing their job, they let Larry keep working there.”

Raisman would like to see more extensive change in leadership at USA Gymnastics.

She never imagined being an agent for change as she dreamed of the Olympics while growing up in Needham, Mass., but she’s embracing the role as she comes to grips with her own victimhood.

Chapter 22 wasn’t the end, only the beginning.

“I’m still, as you see, processing it,” she said. “I’m still at a loss for words. I’m having so many people come up to me, telling me they had similar experience, that they filed a complaint and it was ignored. I will do everything I can to make sure those people are heard.”

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MORE: Gabby Douglas: ‘We were abused by Larry Nassar’