Ryan Lochte, U.S. swimmers receive official suspensions from USOC, USA Swimming

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The punishments are in for Ryan Lochte and the other three U.S. swimmers from the Rio Olympic gas-station incident.

Lochte, as previously reported, is suspended through June 30 of next year and excluded from the 2017 World Championships in July.

Gunnar BentzJack Conger and Jimmy Feigen are banned for four months each, through the end of 2016.

The announcements were made by the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming.

The suspensions were “due to violations of each organization’s code of conduct.”

“We accept the decision as believe it is in everyone’s best interest to move forward,” Lochte’s attorney said, according to USA Today. “Ryan is grateful to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Team and USA Swimming. He recognizes his lapse in judgment, and is looking forward to continuing his training, volunteer work with kids, and resuming his swimming career next year with an eye toward representing his country at the 2020 Olympic games in Japan.

“That said, in my opinion, while the collective sanctions appear to be harsh when considering what actually happened that day – Ryan did not commit a crime, he did not put the public safety at risk, and he did not cheat in his sport – we will leave it to others to evaluate the appropriateness of the penalties.”

VIDEO: Rowdy Gaines comments on Lochte suspension

Lochte’s ban means he won’t be able to compete at a world championships or an Olympics until 2019, the summer he turns 35 years old.

Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, said after the incident but before the suspension announcement that he planned to continue swimming. He lost sponsors, including Speedo, but then added new ones. Lochte is currently busy training for Dancing with the Stars, with the season premiere Monday.

Lochte’s ban is four months longer than the suspension Michael Phelps received after his September 2014 DUI arrest, though Phelps also missed the 2015 World Championships.

Lochte missing the 2017 Worlds in Budapest, Hungary, dents any hope he had of breaking Phelps’ record of 33 world championships medals. Lochte owns 27 worlds medals, second all time, and had competed in the last six worlds in a row.

Given his 2016, Lochte is far from a lock to qualify for the first major international meet after his suspension ends — the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo.

Lochte struggled at this summer’s Olympic Trials and Olympics. While slowed with a groin injury, Lochte made the U.S. Olympic team in one individual event, the 200m individual medley, after making the team in four individual events each in 2008 and 2012.

In Rio, Lochte finished fifth in the 200m IM and earned gold with the 4x200m free relay.

From Thursday’s press release:

Applicable to Ryan Lochte:

1. Suspended from domestic and international USA Swimming national team competitions for 10 months (through June 30, 2017), including the 2017 National Championships, which renders him ineligible for the 2017 FINA World Championships.
2. During the suspension, no monthly stipend from USA Swimming or the USOC.
3. During the suspension, no direct support or access to training centers or other facilities of the USOC.
4. Forfeits all USOC and USA Swimming medal funding for his gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
5. Will perform 20 hours of community service.
6. Not permitted to join Team USA for its White House visit in connection with the Rio 2016 Games.
7. Not permitted to attend USA Swimming’s annual “Golden Goggles” event in 2016.

Applicable to Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen:

1. Suspended from domestic and international USA Swimming national team competitions for four months (through Dec. 31, 2016).
2. During the suspension, no monthly stipend from USA Swimming or the USOC.
3. During the suspension, no direct support or access to training centers or other facilities of the USOC.
4. Not permitted to join Team USA for its White House visit in connection with the Rio 2016 Games.
5. Not permitted to attend USA Swimming’s annual “Golden Goggles” event in 2016.

Further applicable to Gunnar Bentz due to violating a USA Swimming Olympic Village curfew rule placed on athletes under the age of 21:

1. Will perform 10 hours of community service.

“As we have said previously, the behavior of these athletes was not acceptable. It unfairly maligned our hosts and diverted attention away from the historic achievements of Team USA,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “Each of the athletes has accepted responsibility for his actions and accepted the appropriate sanctions. We look forward to focusing our energy on the Paralympic Games and the incredible men and women representing our country in Rio.”

“During an otherwise extraordinary Olympic Games, a small group of athletes had lapses in judgement and conduct that are unacceptable and not consistent with our expectations. When Code of Conduct infractions occur, it’s our responsibility to take action that reflects the seriousness of what happened,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said. “Unfortunately, this storyline took attention away from the athletes who deserved it the most. These athletes took accountability for their mistakes and are committed to represent themselves and our country with the great character and distinction we expect.”

The sanctions take effect immediately.

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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