Ryan Lochte ends his longest break between competitions of his career at the U.S. Championships this week. The last three years since the Rio Olympics have been a roller coaster, he said, and the last year in particular has made him “a better man.”
Lochte said he spent six weeks in rehab for alcohol addiction during a 14-month ban for a May 2018 IV infusion of an illegal amount of a legal substance.
In October, Lochte’s attorney said that the 12-time Olympic medalist had been battling the “disease” of alcohol addiction for many years, and that it had become a destructive pattern for him.
Those comments came after TMZ reported that Lochte was involved in an early morning California hotel incident.
When asked if he still drinks alcohol, Lochte said he had a glass of wine last month to celebrate the birth of his daughter, Liv, but that he doesn’t care for it.
“I’m glad that I went to rehab and got checked out just because it helped me out,” Lochte said Wednesday after swimming a time trial in the 200m individual medley, an event he won at four straight world championships from 2009 through 2015. “It helped put things in perspective in my life. What is really more important than going out to a bar and getting hammered or doing anything like that, I go home and I get to play with my kids and kiss and hold my wife. That, to me, is everything.”
Lochte said he’s been “spotchy” in training the last two months because he wants to be “the dad that’s always there” for wife Kayla Rae Reid, 2-year-old son Caiden ad Liv.
“Swimming has been my second priority,” said Lochte, who turns 35 on Saturday. “This nationals for me is a stepping stone. I’m back in swimming. I just wanted to see where I’m at the swimming world. I have a long journey in the next year.”
Lochte, who is entered in several events this week, said he does not know whether he will focus on longer events, such as the 400m individual medley, or drop down to shorter distances for what should be his fifth and final Olympic run.
On Wednesday, he clocked a reported 1:57.88 in the 200m IM trial. The time would have qualified for last week’s world championships final (and placed last in that final) and ranks him fourth among Americans this year.
It’s his fastest 200m IM since the Rio Olympics, swimming sparingly outside of separate 10-month and 14-month bans, the former for his Brazil gas-station incident.
Lochte will turn 36 years old during the Tokyo Olympics, when he will be older than all but two previous U.S. Olympic swimmers in individual events (Edgar Adams, 1904, and Dara Torres, 2008).
“When kids that I race against, after practice they can go home and rest,” he said. “After a hard workout, I have to go home and I have to pull some kind of energy out of me and be that loving, playful dad and that great husband that I am. I have no rest. There’s no recovery for me.”
Asked what he would say to those who have lost faith in him, Lochte said it’s understandable.
“I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,” he said. “I’m doing this for me and my family. I want to go — definitely one of my biggest goals is going to the 2020 Olympics, making my fifth Olympics, and hopefully getting on the podium there. I just want to do this — anything I do from here in the pool and outside the pool is for my family.”
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