STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Olympic champion Ryan Lochte made an emphatic return to competition Wednesday, swimming the fourth-fastest time by an American in the 200-meter individual medley during a time trial at the Phillips 66 National Championships at Stanford University.
“I’m back, Woo!” Lochte proclaimed in his opening remarks on the pool deck at Avery Aquatic Center after qualifying for the U.S. Olympic trials with the time of 1 minute, 57.88 seconds. “It’s been a long three years but it’s good to be back, get on those blocks and race again.”
Lochte is entered in the 100 butterfly, 100 and 200 backstroke and 200 and 400 IM this week, though he hasn’t decided which events he will focus on for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
“I don’t do that much anymore,” Lochte said. “I’ve been splotchy with my swimming. Family trumps everything. Swimming has been my second priority. Nationals, for me, is a stepping stone to see where I’m at in the swimming world. It’s a long journey to next year to see what I can do.”
Lochte said he’s not the same man he was three years, when he partied hard during and following the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which he was involved in a fake police report. Last year, he was given a 14-month suspension for receiving an infusion of vitamin B-12 above the allowed limit.
The meet is his first event since the suspension ended last week. During that time, he checked himself into a rehab center for six weeks to fight alcohol abuse.
“There was a point in my life where I needed to change, so I checked myself in,” Lochte said. “My wife was pregnant and I needed to help her. I did all the classes and got out. Since Caiden and my new daughter Liv, I have a new perspective on life.”
He said he has limited himself to a glass of wine to celebrate the birth of his daughter but that’s been the extent of his alcohol intake since going to rehab.
“There are bigger and better things in my life,” he said. “I’m glad I went to rehab. I needed help and I came out a better man.”
Competing in his fifth Olympics motivates him in the pool. His family drives him to succeed.
“I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,” Lochte said. “My big goal is 2020 and to reach the podium. I do it for me and my family. I’m having fun again. I haven’t had fun since the 2012 Olympics. My wife and kids have been my backbone. It’s awesome.”