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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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IOC group proposes Olympic ‘host’ can be multiple countries

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International Olympic Committee members will decide next month whether to tweak the definition of an Olympic host to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in announcing the IOC’s executive board approved the measure. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

It’s one of six proposed changes by a working group chaired by Australian IOC member John Coates to examine the bid process. Another is to make the timing of Olympic host city elections more flexible. Typically, hosts are elected seven years before the Games, though two years ago an exception was made in the double awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Bach repeated that the proposals are “to avoid producing too many losers as we had it in the past candidature procedures.”

The IOC previously said in 2014, in announcing Agenda 2020, that it “will allow events held outside the host city or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.”

This shift manifests in Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid plan to have sliding sports in Sigulda, Latvia, home of the nearest existing track for bobsled, luge and skeleton, rather than building a costly new track in Sweden.

IOC members will vote to choose the 2026 Winter Games host next month. The finalists are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, after five other potential candidates were dropped for various reasons.

There is precedent for events held far from the Olympic host city. In 1956, Melbourne held the Summer Games and had equestrian events in Stockholm due to quarantine laws in Australia. Similarly, equestrian at the 2008 Beijing Games was held in Hong Kong.

Soccer matches are often held in cities across the host country. Recent Winter Olympics have had mountain events in a different city or area than arena events.

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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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