Ryan Lochte makes history risking DQ at Worlds; more gold for Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin

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Ryan Lochte became the second swimmer to win four straight World Championships in one event, taking the 200m individual medley in Kazan, Russia, on Thursday, despite saying going in that he heard he might get disqualified.

Katie Ledecky anchored the U.S. women’s 4x200m freestyle relay to win her fourth gold medal of the meet, giving her eight gold medals in eight career Worlds events over 2013 and 2015. Missy Franklin led off that relay to pick up her 10th career Worlds gold, breaking her tie with retired Australian Libby Trickett for most by a woman.

In the men’s 200m IM, Lochte clocked 1:55.81, the fastest time in the world this year, to win by .84 over Brazil’s Thiago Pereira. China’s Wang Shun earned bronze.

“Just goes to show all that hard work and dedication I’ve put in the pool, I mean it pays off,” Lochte, who had a poor 2014 following tearing an MCL after a fan ran into him, he fell and hit a curb in fall 2013, told Michele Tafoya on Universal Sports. “This is just kind of a stepping stone to what I want to accomplish in Rio.”

Lochte said he risked disqualification with a new strategy he uses on the turn off the wall at 150 meters, switching from breaststroke to the final 50 meters of freestyle. Lochte swims on his back off that wall before turning to the freestyle, while everyone else stays more or less on their belly.

Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks said on Universal Sports that an Australian judge who stood over Lochte’s lane at the 150-meter turn might have tried to disqualify Lochte.

“I’ve never heard a rule saying that you can’t do that, but I think they’re going to start changing the rules now,” Lochte told Tafoya. “I took that chance tonight going into it. They said you might get disqualified.”

Lochte’s win came against a field that did not include Olympic champion Michael Phelps or the two other fastest 200m IM swimmers each of the last two years — Japan’s Kosuke Hagino (injured) and Daiya Seto (failed to advance out of semis).

“There was a couple of people that weren’t in that race, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there was other people there to push me,” Lochte said on Eurosport.

Worlds broadcast schedule | Thursday results

Lochte, 31, became the second swimmer to win the same Worlds event four straight times. Australia’s Grant Hackett did so in the 1500m freestyle from 1998 through 2005. Hackett, 35, is competing in the 4x200m free relay in Kazan, his first Worlds in eight years.

Lochte also became the second swimmer to earn a medal in the same Worlds event six straight times. Italy’s Federica Pellegrini accomplished the feat in the women’s 200m freestyle Wednesday.

Lochte’s individual events are finished at Worlds, his lightest individual workload at a major international meet in 11 years. In his other event, he finished fourth in the 200m freestyle. Lochte is likely to be part of the U.S. 4x200m free relay on Friday.

He said that Michael Phelps emailed him earlier this week after the U.S. started the meet poorly. The U.S. is now up to 11 medals and five golds, both leading the medal standings after five of eight days. Its fewest medals won at a Worlds or Olympics in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 Worlds.

Phelps is not swimming at Worlds as part of his punishment for a September DUI arrest.

“He emailed me saying good luck, you’re like one of the older men on the team, so you’ve got to push through from Team USA and get them going because you’re a leader now,” Lochte said on Eurosport. “I’m not there to help you. I’m like, yeah, we miss him. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s definitely missed. But like I said, the biggest picture is Rio, and I know he’ll be there, and he’ll be fired up for that.”

Michael Phelps: U.S. swimming is no longer on top

In other finals Thursday, Franklin and Ledecky led the U.S. women’s 4x200m free relay to a 3.04-second win over Italy and China. They switched spots in the relay order from 2013, when Ledecky led off and Franklin anchored.

Sarah Sjostrom led off the relay with the fastest split of the field in 1:54.31, a time that would have beaten Ledecky for gold in the individual 200m freestyle on Wednesday. Ledecky won that race in 1:55.16. Sjostrom opted not to swim the individual 200m free in Kazan.

The U.S. closed the gap on Sweden to within .34 for Ledecky’s anchor leg. Ledecky easily moved into gold-medal position and clocked 1:55.64 on her split.

Ledecky will swim the 800m freestyle Saturday, looking to become the first swimmer to win the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at one Worlds. She can also become the second swimmer to win four individual events at a Worlds, joining Lochte and Phelps.

Franklin will swim the 100m freestyle final Friday and the 200m backstroke final Saturday. She’s still looking for her first individual gold medal of the meet after winning three individual events in 2013.

In the men’s 100m freestyle Thursday, U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian tied for seventh. Ning Zetao, who was handed a one-year doping ban in 2011, became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic or World title in an event shorter than 400 meters. Australia’s Cameron McEvoy took silver followed by Argentina’s Federico Grabich for bronze.

“He underperformed a little bit,” Russian two-time Olympic 100m freestyle champion Alexander Popov said of McEvoy on Eurosport.

Cammile Adams took silver in the 200m butterfly for her first Worlds medal, coming from seventh place after 100 meters and fifth after 150. Adams finished fifth at the 2012 Olympics and seventh at the 2013 World Championships.

The U.S. has won a medal in every women’s swimming event at one of the last two Olympics, except the 200m butterfly. The last U.S. woman to win an Olympic 200m butterfly medal was Misty Hyman‘s surprise gold at Sydney 2000.

Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi took the gold in 2:05.56, followed by Adams in 2:06.40 and China’s Zhang Yufei in 2:06.51. Hoshi won the first World Championships gold by a Japanese woman, after 24 combined silver and bronze medals.

China’s Fu Yuanhui took the women’s 50m backstroke title. No Americans were in the final, and the event is not part of the Olympic program. Fu was fourth in the 100m back Tuesday.

In semifinals Thursday, Franklin advanced to Friday’s 100m freestyle final by .01 as the eighth and final qualifier. Franklin was fourth in the event at the 2013 Worlds and fifth at the 2012 Olympics. Countrywoman Simone Manuel qualified sixth into the final.

The favorites are fastest qualifier Swede Sarah Sjostrom and Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell.

Ryan Murphy and Olympic champion Tyler Clary qualified second and seventh into Friday’s 200m backstroke final. An American has won this event at each of the last 20 major international meets.

American Micah Lawrence was the No. 2 qualifier into Friday’s 200m breaststroke final behind Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen. Lawrence won bronze two years ago, with Pedersen earning bronze. The 2013 World champion Yulia Efimova of Russia failed to advance out of the morning heats.

American Kevin Cordes was the fourth qualifier into Friday’s men’s 200m breast final. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta will try to match Lochte and Hackett with a fourth straight World title Friday.

Phelps: I won’t drink alcohol until after Rio, if ever

Men’s 200m Individual Medley
Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA) — 1:55.81
Silver: Thiago Pereira (BRA) — 1:56.65
Bronze: Wang Shun (CHN) — 1:56.81

4. Daniel John Wallace (GBR) — 1:57.59
5. Conor Dwyer (USA) — 1:57.96
6. Marcin Cieslak (POL) — 1:58.14
7. Henrique Rodriguez (BRA) — 1:58.52
8. Simon Sjodin (SWE) — 1:59.06

Men’s 100m Freestyle
Gold: Ning Zetao (CHN) — 47.84
Silver: Cameron McEvoy (AUS) — 47.95
Bronze: Federico Grabich (ARG) — 48.12
4. Santo Condorelli (CAN) — 48.19
5. Marcelo Chierighini (BRA) — 48.27
6. Alexander Sukhorukov (RUS) — 48.28
7. Nathan Adrian (USA) — 48.31
7. Pieter Timmers (BEL) — 48.31

Women’s 200m Butterfly
Gold: Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) — 2:05.56
Silver: Cammile Adams (USA) — 2:06.40
Bronze: Zhang Yufei (CHN) — 2:06.51
4. Brianna Throssell (AUS) — 2:06.78
4. Franziska Hentke (GER) — 2:06.78
6. Katie McLaughlin (USA) — 2:06.95
7. Liliana Szilagyi (HUN) — 2:07.76
8. Zhou Yilin (CHN) — 2:10.20

Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: U.S. — 7:45.37
Silver: Italy — 7:48.41
Bronze: China — 7:49.10
4. Sweden — 7:50.24
5. Great Britain — 7:50.60
6. Australia — 7:51.02
7. Japan — 7:54.62
8. France — 7:55.98

Weightlifting investigation finds doping cover-ups

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DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation has found doping cover-ups and millions of dollars in missing money, lead investigator Richard McLaren said Thursday.

McLaren said 40 positive doping tests were “hidden” in IWF records and that athletes whose cases were delayed or covered up went on to win medals at the world championships and other events. The cases will be referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We found systematic governance failures and corruption at the highest level of the IWF,” McLaren said.

The International Olympic Committee said it was studying the report “very carefully,” adding that “the content is deeply concerning.”

McLaren said former IWF president Tamas Ajan was “an autocratic leader” who kept the board in the dark about finances and left officials fearing reprisals if they spoke out. Ajan received cash payments on behalf of the IWF as doping fines from national federations or sponsors, the report said, but what happened to some of the money is unclear.

McLaren said $10.4 million was unaccounted for, based on his team’s analysis of cash going in and out of the IWF over several years. Ajan denies any wrongdoing.

The largest fine recorded in the report was $500,000 paid by Azerbaijan. It’s unclear how that payment was made. On one trip to Thailand for a competition and conference, Ajan collected more than $440,000 across 18 cash payments, according to the report.

“Everyone was kept in financial ignorance through the use of hidden bank accounts (and transfers),” McLaren said. “Some cash was accounted for, some was not.”

McLaren said that the investigation found information which law enforcement “might be interested in,” and that he would cooperate with any later investigations. That was echoed by Ajan’s successor at the IWF.

“The activities that have been revealed and the behavior that has occurred in the years past is absolutely unacceptable and possibly criminal,” IWF interim president Ursula Garza Papandrea said.

She added that the IWF will pass on information to law enforcement if it indicates there were “potential crimes.”

McLaren said Ajan “permitted the (federation) elections to be bought by vote brokers” as he kept the presidency and promoted favored officials. Large cash withdrawals were made ahead of federation congresses, McLaren said, adding that voters were bribed and had to take pictures of their ballots to show to brokers.

The 81-year-old Ajan stepped down in April, ending a 20-year reign as president and a total 44 years in federation posts. A month before that he also gave up his honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee.

In a statement to Hungarian state news agency MTI, Ajan said the IWF’s finances were managed in a “lawful” manner with oversight from the board.

“All my life, I’ve abided by the laws, the written and unwritten rules and customs of the sport,” he said.

Ajan accused McLaren’s team of not giving him enough information to respond to the allegations about his conduct.

Ajan was a full IOC member between 2000 and 2010, voting to select Olympic host cities. A previous complaint about IWF finances in 2010 was closed by the IOC.

McLaren’s investigation was sparked in January when German broadcaster ARD reported financial irregularities at the federation and apparent doping cover-ups.

The focus of the investigation was on the period from 2009 through 2019. McLaren said he heard allegations of misconduct dating back as far as the 1980s, but chose to prioritize more recent matters with stronger evidence.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said it welcomed McLaren’s findings.

“Once WADA has had the opportunity to review that evidence as well as the report in full, the Agency will consider the next appropriate steps to take,” it said in a statement.

Some allegations regarding doping misconduct around the 2019 world championships in Thailand and involving athletes from Moldova were passed to the International Testing Agency, which is still investigating.

McLaren, a Canadian law professor, was WADA’s lead investigator for Russian doping and has judged cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Weightlifting’s reputation under Ajan had already been hit by dozens of steroid doping cases revealed in retests of samples from the Olympics since 2008.

Since he left office in April, the IWF has begun moving its headquarters from Ajan’s home country of Hungary to the Swiss city of Lausanne, where the International Olympic Committee is based.

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Gwendolyn Berry gets apology from USOPC CEO after reprimand for podium gesture

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Olympic hammer thrower Gwendolyn Berry said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to her Wednesday “for not understanding the severity of the impact her decisions had on me,” after Berry was put on probation last August for one year after raising her fist at the end of the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games.

“I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,” Hirshland said in a statement. “I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”

Berry and fencer Race Imboden were sent August letters of reprimand by Hirshland, along with each receiving probation, after each made a podium gesture at Pan Ams in Peru.

This week, Berry tweeted that she wanted a public apology from Hirshland. That tweet came after Hirshland sent a letter to U.S. athletes on Monday night, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

Then on Wednesday night, Berry said she had a “really productive” 40-minute phone call with Hirshland, USATF CEO Max Siegel and other USATF officials.

“I didn’t necessarily ask for [an apology] from [Hirshland],” Berry said Thursday. Berry said she lost two-thirds of her income after Pan Ams, that sponsors dropped her in connection to the raised fist fallout.

“We came to some good conclusions,” Berry said of the group call. “The most important thing were figuring out ways to move forward. [Hirshland] was aware of things that she did and how she made me feel about the situation, and I was happy that I was able to express to her my grievances and she was able to express to me how she felt as well about the situation.”

Berry said her probation, which is believed to still be in effect, wasn’t discussed. She made a point to say that USATF has always been on her side.

“The conversation was more for awareness purposes, and we’ll probably have more conversations this week,” said Berry.

Berry also plans to participate in a U.S. athlete town hall Friday.

“First and foremost, we should and we will discuss how people are just feeling and how people are holding up because athletes in general, because of the pandemic and because of everything that’s been going on, I know a lot of people are in distress, they’re sad, they’re confused,” she said. “I think that’ll be the main point of the discussion. Just to make sure everybody’s OK. Just to see how everybody’s holding on.”

On Aug. 10, Berry raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning the Pan American Games title.

The next morning, Berry said the gesture, which drew memories of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games, wasn’t meant to be a big message, but it quickly became a national story.

“Just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year,” she said then. “A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that. I just know America can do better.”

Berry said then that the motivation behind her gesture included the challenges overcome of changing coaches and moving from Oxford, Miss., where her family resides, to Houston.

“Every individual person has their own views of things that are going on,” she said. “It’s in the Constitution, freedom of speech. I have a right to feel what I want to feel. It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”

Berry also said that weekend, according to USA Today, that she was standing for “extreme injustice.”

“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry said, according to that report. “It’s too important to not say something. Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report.

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