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Swim coach Bob Bowman apologizes for inappropriate texting

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IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of retired 23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, has acknowledged and apologized for inappropriate text messages that were sent from his cellphone to former Olympic swimmer Caroline Burckle in 2011.

At the time, Bowman was a coach for the U.S. national team, along with Sean Hutchison, who was also said to be involved in the texting.

Burckle told the Southern California News Group in a recent story that the messages “were so aggressive.”

She said she reported the incident and forwarded the texts and a voice message to then-USA Swimming national team assistant coach Jack Roach, who forwarded it to then-national team director Frank Busch, who was Bowman’s boss.

Busch put Bowman on notice about the incident in a June 3, 2011, letter that stressed “it is important you understand the severity of this situation,” the newspaper said.

Burckle said Bowman apologized to her, but she never heard from Hutchison.

Three months later, Bowman was named an assistant on the U.S. Olympic coaching staff for the 2012 London Games. He served as head men’s coach at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

“Certainly from hindsight, I don’t think that’s how I would have handled the situation quite frankly,” USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said Wednesday. “Regardless of age, gender, athlete, non-athlete, no one deserves to have communications like that.”

Asked what he would have done differently, Hinchey said, “If this happened today with one of our coaches, I can’t see appointing him to an Olympic team.”

Hinchey said he would defer to national team director Lindsay Mintenko on the likelihood of Bowman being part of any U.S. national teams in the future.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Tim about the situation yet and so it would be premature to give a comment about what he talked about today,” she said. “It’s kind of a team effort when we have these discussions. If it comes to it, we’ll cross that bridge.”

Hinchey, who succeeded the late Chuck Wielgus in June 2017, sent a letter earlier this year to members of the national governing body stating a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse or misconduct.

“I said zero tolerance and I mean it,” Hinchey said.

However, he also said he doesn’t have reservations about Bowman working with swimmers going forward.

“From a coaching perspective, his resume speaks for itself,” Hinchey said.

Bowman currently coaches Arizona State’s men’s and women’s teams, and after a recent review by the university it said he’s been warned that similar behavior won’t be tolerated. The university said in a statement that it was unaware of the incident when Bowman was hired in 2015.

“I regret the exercise of poor judgment in being involved one evening seven years ago with inappropriate communications,” Bowman said in a text to The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I promptly apologized to the person to whom the communications were sent and my apology was accepted.”

Bowman is in Irvine, California, this week to coach ASU swimmers competing in the U.S. national championships.

“Bob certainly doesn’t feel good about this, I can tell by his reaction,” Hinchey said.

In February, former world champion swimmer Ariana Kukors accused Hutchison of sexually abusing her for years and has filed a civil suit against him, USA Swimming and former national team director Mark Schubert, among others. Hutchison has said it was a consensual relationship.

Hinchey confirmed that Hutchison is no longer a member of USA Swimming.

Burckle won a bronze medal as part of the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The next year she trained under Hutchison in Fullerton, California, before retiring in 2010 at age 24.

Now 32, she said she is speaking out in an effort to change the culture within swimming and Olympic sports.

“For me it’s the principle of it,” Burckle told the newspaper. “It’s about giving people the respect they deserve and shouldn’t have to ask for.”

Arizona State Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson reviewed the matter involving Bowman after being alerted to it by the Southern California News Group story. During an interview with Anderson, Bowman confirmed his involvement in the text messaging, the university’s statement said.

ASU said Bowman apologized to Burckle, whom it didn’t name, in front of Busch, who recommended Bowman to ASU when it was hiring a coach.

Anderson said ASU hasn’t received any allegations of misconduct related to Bowman from students, faculty or staff.

USA Swimming said in a statement that in 2011 it was made aware of inappropriate texts sent to an adult former member athlete by a member coach. It didn’t name Burckle or Bowman.

“The organization does not condone this type of communication no matter the relationship between the parties,” USA Swimming said. “The issue was addressed by USA Swimming, and warning letters were issued to the offending parties, which also included a non-athlete member in the presence of the coach.”

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Ester Ledecka must decide between ski, snowboard worlds

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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — Skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecka will not be able to follow up her dual sport gold-medal performances at the PyeongChang Olympics with a similar haul of world titles this season.

That’s because the schedule won’t allow it, and she’s not happy about it.

The parallel giant slalom at the world freestyle skiing and snowboard championships in Utah is Feb. 4 — the same day downhill training opens at Alpine skiing worlds in Are, Sweden, and a day before the super-G.

“I was a little bit hoping they would reschedule the snowboard race — put it a week earlier so I could do it both — but they didn’t want to so I have to choose,” Ledecka said Tuesday after placing 29th in a World Cup downhill.

In PyeongChang, Ledecka followed her super-G title by winning the parallel GS in snowboarding — becoming the first athlete to win two golds at one Winter Games using two different types of equipment.

The 23-year-old Czech is the reigning world champion in parallel GS.

Ledecka said she brought up the issue with the International Ski Federation, which governs both sports.

“On one side I see their point. For one athlete why should they do that, right? But from the other side I think I made snowboarding a little more popular, and I think a lot of fans would be happy to see me compete in both,” Ledecka said. “It’s their decision, and I have to respect it.”

Ledecka has not decided which worlds she’ll compete in. She’s currently going back and forth between the snowboard and ski circuits.

Last week, she finished first and second in two parallel GS events in Italy and then switched to downhill skis this week. She was fastest in a downhill training run Monday before finishing 29th in Tuesday’s race.

“I think I can decide right before,” Ledecka said. “But it will probably be early, so I’m well prepared.”

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Sandro Viletta, Olympic super combined champion, retires

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Sandro Viletta, the surprise 2014 Olympic super combined champion, retired from Alpine skiing at age 32 after major injuries, according to the Swiss Ski Federation.

Viletta, who did not defend his Olympic title in PyeongChang, has not raced on the World Cup since tearing a knee ligament in a December 2016 super-G crash. He hasn’t raced anywhere since another knee ligament tear in a lower-level race in March.

Viletta took gold in Sochi despite having one World Cup podium to his name (from more than two years earlier). Viletta was 14th in the downhill part of the Olympic combined, then had the second-fastest slalom to win by. 34 over Croatian Ivica Kostelic.

“I did not think this was possible; I did not expect to win, even after I had the lead today,” Viletta told reporters after the race. “But on one day, I had the perfect day.”

Viletta was the lowest-ranked racer in the downhill to come back to win the Olympic combined since the format changed from two slalom runs to one in 2010. He is Switzerland’s lone Olympic men’s Alpine champion from the last two Winter Games.

The combined’s place at the Olympics and world championships and on the World Cup is in peril as the International Ski Federation has incorporated more parallel slalom and giant slalom races in recent years.

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