Ryan Lochte posted a photo for the world to see, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency noticed.
It got him suspended — again.
The longtime U.S. swimming star has been banned from competition until July 2019, which means the 12-time Olympic medalist cannot compete as planned in the national championships that start this week in California. Lochte will also be ineligible for other top meets, including the Pan Pacific Championships later this year and next year’s world championships.
He did not take a banned substance. But he got an intravenous injection of vitamins in May — a method typically banned under anti-doping rules. The 14-month ban, retroactive to May 24 and announced Monday by USADA, is his second in less than two years following his 10-month suspension for his behavior during a drunken incident that created widespread scorn at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“A rule is a rule and I accept that there is a technical violation,” Lochte said. “I am hopeful that other athletes learn from my mistake.”
Lochte said he took the IV because both his wife and his son were ill, and that he didn’t want to get sick as well.He said the IV contained mostly B-complex vitamins, products that he said could be purchased at any pharmacy.
But the issue was the amount — it exceeded 100 milliliters, and that’s the rule he broke.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Lochte said. “I was back in top shape, I’ve been training every day, and now this.”
In Brazil, he there were questions about his version of what happened.
This time, he revealed what happened — obviously unaware of the ramifications it would bring.
Lochte’s violation essentially came to light when he posted the photo of him getting the IV on his social media accounts. That triggered the USADA investigation, one that Lochte “fully cooperated” with according to U.S. officials.
Suspensions for use of an IV are extremely rare: The USADA database shows only two other athletes being sanctioned for using such a method, one of them getting a six-month suspension and the other a 14-month ban. That same database shows that before Monday, no other U.S. swimmer in the last 10 years, for any reason including actual positive tests, had been suspended for more than one year by USADA.
This week could have been a significant step forward for Lochte, who was entered in four events at the U.S. championships at Irvine, California and was preparing to compete in what would have been his biggest competition since the Rio Games. Lochte said that he and three other U.S. Olympic swimmers there were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station, a story that quickly unraveled.
The investigation in Brazil is continuing, and Lochte said it’s “concerning” to him that a court there recently decided that he could still face prosecution for filing a false report.
Lochte was not only suspended 10 months for that debacle, but also forfeited $100,000 in Olympic medal bonus money and was banned from competing in last year’s national and world championships.