Michael Phelps fastest in first race since August


Michael Phelps qualified fastest into the 100m butterfly final in his first race since August at the Pro Swim Series at Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday.

Phelps, a three-time Olympic 100m fly champion, clocked 52.92 seconds to win a preliminary heat Thursday afternoon (full results here). He leads an eight-man final that includes Ryan Lochte, who won his earlier preliminary heat in 53.17 with the No. 3 time overall.

The finals session is at 9 p.m. ET on Universal Sports.

Phelps is swimming in Mesa following a six-month suspension after a September DUI arrest. Last year, he swam at the Mesa meet in his first competition since the London Olympics.

Phelps comments on possible World Championships offer from FINA

In last year’s 100m fly prelims, Phelps clocked 52.84 to lead qualifiers into the final. He was beaten by Lochte in the final later that night, clocking 52.13.

Phelps has said he’s recently trained harder than at any point since 2008, when he won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky qualified fastest into the 200m freestyle final, ahead of FINA World Swimmer of the Year Katinka Hosszu, who is better in individual medleys.

Olympic 200m free champion Allison Schmitt, who did not make the 2015 World Championships team, also reached the 200m free final.

Lochte was the second-fastest qualifier into the men’s 200m free final behind Conor Dwyer. Phelps did not swim the 200m free.

Ledecky was also second to Hosszu in 400m individual medley qualifying. Ledecky, who has never competed in the 400m IM at a major international meet, cut one second off her personal best and was faster than Americans Elizabeth Beisel and Caitlin Leverenz, who were second and tied for sixth, respectively, in the 2012 Olympic 400m IM.

The meet runs through Saturday.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at Sydney 2000 Olympics

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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