Nathan Adrian
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Nathan Adrian, with cancer diagnosis, surgeries behind him, has simple ask for return meet

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Nathan Adrian would like to reveal special plans for his first meet since his testicular cancer diagnosis and two surgeries, but that is not his style.

“As I was preparing for this interview, I was thinking,” Adrian said Tuesday night, “I don’t even have something cool, like Damian Lillard wearing an Oakland A’s jersey to the arena.”

No, Adrian would be fine without extra fanfare at this weekend’s Tyr Pro Swim Series in Bloomington, Ind., where he will race the 100m freestyle on Friday and the 50m freestyle on Sunday.

“My hope is that you see the same Nathan Adrian at this meet that you’re used to,” the eight-time Olympic medalist said. “I just don’t know, because I am different, whether it be from a physical perspective — I’m missing an entire organ and lymph nodes and have pretty nasty scars. … And from an emotional perspective … I was moved to tears throughout that process.”

Adrian, now 30 years old, received his first Olympic gold medal in a vacuum-sealed packet at a team meeting a decade ago (as a preliminary heat swimmer before the famous Beijing 4x100m freestyle final). His second gold came by .01 of a second in the London 2012 100m free, after which he said he almost cried in the water (but appeared to stay composed in a TV interview and on the medal stand).

His last two golds in Rio relays brought teammates to tears — Ryan Held‘s sobbing in the 4x100m free and Michael Phelps welling up after his last career race in the medley. But Adrian stayed composed on the outside, per usual, casually opening that megawatt smile throughout the pool deck. His Twitter bio reads, “I have never taken myself too seriously and never intend to. I also went to the Olympics.”

“There are a lot of people that are really nice in this sport, but I can count on one hand the people that nobody dislikes,” said NBC Sports analyst Rowdy Gaines, who is on this week’s Olympic Channel call. “Nathan is that one guy that everybody loves.

“He walks into a room, and everybody’s instantly attracted to that, that humility and that grace and that magnetism. … He has time for the 90-year-olds and the 9-year-olds, and everyone in between.”

Tyr Pro Series — Bloomington TV/Stream Schedule

Day TV Stream Time (ET)
Thursday USASwimming.org 4 p.m.
Friday Olympic Channel NBCSports.com, OlympicChannel.com 6 p.m.
NBCSN NBCSports.com 12:30 a.m.
Saturday Olympic Channel NBCSports.com, OlympicChannel.com 6 p.m.
NBCSN NBCSports.com 1 a.m.
Sunday NBCSports.com 6 p.m.

*All streams on NBCSports.com and OlympicChannel.com also available on the NBC Sports app and Olympic Channel app, respectively.

Adrian, at 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds (pre-cancer), is a giant in the sport, perhaps the greatest American sprinter in history. The last year knocked him over like a tidal wave that accompanies him off the turn of a 100m free.

“I would wake up from being asleep and just be in tears, sobbing. I didn’t know why,” he said of life post-cancer diagnosis. “Those were more powerful emotions than I think I’ve ever felt.”

Before catching it early, and undergoing two surgeries, Adrian would have considered summer 2018 his greatest adversity as a swimmer. He failed to qualify for this summer’s world championships in an individual event. He is part of the 4x100m free relay at July’s worlds in South Korea, but it’s his first major international meet without an individual swim since Beijing 2008.

“I just chalk it up to a freak accident of a year,” Adrian said, echoing teammates like Katie Ledecky, who noted nationals and the Pan Pacific Championships being two weeks apart and having a few days to acclimate to the 16-hour difference after arriving in Tokyo for Pan Pacs. Usually, nationals/trials are about a month before Olympics or worlds, and the team has a training camp near the site of international meets.

“It was super weird to see the Americans struggling at night [in finals at Pan Pacs],” said Adrian, who was slower at Pan Pacs than at nationals. “We don’t normally have those issues. It was super weird with, honestly, how slow we were.”

Adrian is adamant that this is the beginning of a full-fledged return that will not end next summer. He is amped to not only race at Indiana University this weekend, not only in Gwangju, not only at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, but also, if maybe not this summer, the new FINA Champions Series and International Swimming League in the years ahead.

What he can’t predict is what it will feel like in Bloomington on Friday, when he mounts an official race starting block for the first time since Dec. 1. He’s lost a couple of inches of vertical leap, which affects his explosiveness off starts and turns.

“It’s one thing to be in good shape. It’s a different thing to be in racing shape,” Adrian said. “Even, like, from an emotional or mental perspective, I’m not in racing shape.

“I still love swimming, but at the same time there was this threat of maybe not being able to compete for a really long time. That certainly made me think, makes me appreciate every day that I get to be in the pool.”

As for tears? “I’m not an extremely emotional guy,” he said, “but you certainly can’t rule it out.”

MORE: U.S. swimmers qualified for world championships

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Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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MORE: Roger Federer minted on Swiss coin

Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TIMELINE: Russia’s recent history of sports doping