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2019 U.S. swimming rankings (men)

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With many of the U.S.’ top swimmers taking a break after the world championships, and thus missing the national championships, the best way to survey the early favorites for June’s Olympic trials is to look at rankings by swimmers’ fastest times for 2019.

Last week’s world junior championships marked the last top international meet of the summer, making it a good time to take stock of the field in all of the individual Olympic events.

Caeleb Dressel, fresh off a six-gold, eight-medal world championships, is comfortably ahead in his three primary individual events (50m and 100m freestyles and 100m butterfly) by .58, .43 and 1.18 seconds.

He is in line to try for at least six Olympic events when including the men’s 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays and a mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay. Two of his events at worlds aren’t on the Olympic program.

Dressel could get up to the Phelpsian eight events next year if he adds the 200m free and men’s 4x200m free relay, but he ranks 11th in the U.S. in the 200m free this year (granted didn’t swim it when peaked at worlds). The top six at trials should make the relay pool, and the top two will make the individual event. Keep an eye on if he swims the 200m free in Tyr Pro Series meets next spring leading up to trials.

MORE: U.S. women’s swim rankings

Aside from triple Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy topping both backstrokes, the rest of the U.S. men’s rankings have seen major changes in this Olympic cycle.

Zane Grothe and Bobby Finke succeeded the retired Connor Jaeger as the top distance freestylers. Andrew Wilson, who was fourth and fifth in the two breaststrokes at 2016 trials, is now the top man in that stroke.

Then there’s Ryan Lochte, who is trying to come back from two suspensions to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904. Lochte, who turns 36 during the Tokyo Games, moved to fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m individual medley by winning the national title.

Another veteran Olympic champion, Nathan Adrian, would just miss a hypothetical Olympic team if it was based on best times of 2019. Adrian, who is coming back from testicular cancer, is one spot shy in the 50m free and two spots shy of a 4x100m free relay spot. But that he’s even contending after announcing his diagnosis on Jan. 24 and undergoing two surgeries is impressive. Look for faster times in 2020.

Teen watch: Luca Urlando, 17, followed up breaking Phelps’ national age group record in the 200m butterfly by winning the world junior title last week with a time more than a second slower than his personal best. He ranks third in the world and first in the U.S. this year but wasn’t at July’s worlds because he didn’t qualify last summer.

Another 17-year-old, Carson Foster, won the world junior title in the 200m IM. He slots right behind Lochte in the U.S. rankings. Foster was 2 years old when Lochte made his Olympic debut in 2004. And yet another 17-year-old, Jake Mitchell, is second to Grothe in the 400m free.

Either Urlando or Foster would be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since Phelps, Aaron PeirsolIan Crocker and Klete Keller in 2000.

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2019 U.S. Swimming Rankings — Men
50m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 21.04
2. Michael Andrew — 21.62
3. Nathan Adrian — 21.87
3. Ryan Held — 21.87
5. Michael Chadwick — 21.95
5. David Curtiss — 21.95

100m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 46.96
2. Ryan Held — 47.39
3. Maxime Rooney — 47.61
4. Zach Apple — 47.79
5. Blake Pieroni — 47.87
6. Tate Jackson — 47.88

200m Freestyle
1. Andrew Seliskar — 1:45.71
2. Kieran Smith — 1:46.21
3. Townley Haas — 1:46.37
4. Dean Farris — 1:46.45
5. Luca Urlando — 1:46.51
6. Blake Pieroni — 1:46.62

400m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 3:45.78
2. Jake Mitchell — 3:47.95
3. Bobby Finke — 3:48.17
4. Eric Knowles — 3:48.34
5. Mitch D’Arrigo — 3:48.39

800m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 7:47.58
2. Zane Grothe — 7:50.14
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 7:53.11
4. Michael Brinegar — 7:54.56
5. Andrew Abruzzo — 7:54.70
5. Jake Mitchell — 7:54.70

1500m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 14:51.15
2. Zane Grothe — 14:56.10
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 14:59.94
4. Michael Brinegar — 15:00.82
5. Arik Katz — 15:05.93

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 52.44
2. Shaine Casas — 52.72
3. Matt Grevers — 52.75
4. Justin Ress — 53.31
5. Michael Andrew — 53.40
5. Jacob Pebley — 53.40

200m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 1:54.12
2. Austin Katz — 1:55.57
3. Shaine Casas — 1:55.79
4. Jacob Pebley — 1:56.35
5. Clark Beach — 1:57.14

100m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 58.93
2. Cody Miller — 59.24
3. Ian Finnerty — 59.49
4. Michael Andrew — 59.52
5. Devon Nowicki — 59.69

200m Breaststroke
1. Will Licon — 2:07.62
2. Andrew Wilson — 2:07.77
3. Nic Fink — 2:08.16
4. Josh Prenot — 2:08.77
5. Cody Miller — 2:08.98

100m Butterfly
1. Caeleb Dressel — 49.50
2. Maxime Rooney — 50.68
3. Jack Conger — 51.21
4. Andrew Seliskar — 51.34
5. Jack Saunderson — 51.36

200m Butterfly
1. Luca Urlando — 1:53.84
2. Zach Harting — 1:55.26
3. Miles Smachlo — 1:55.94
4. Nicolas Albiero — 1:56.05
5. Trenton Julian — 1:56.09

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:56.78
2. Michael Andrew — 1:57.49
3. Abrahm Devine — 1:57.66
4. Ryan Lochte — 1:57.76
5. Carson Foster — 1:58.46

400m Individual Medley
1. Jay Litherland — 4:09.22
2. Charlie Swanson — 4:11.46
3. Bobby Finke — 4:13.15
4. Carson Foster — 4:13.39
5. Chase Kalisz — 4:13.45

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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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