Ryan Lochte plans to receive treatment for an “alcohol addiction” that has been going on for “many years,” his attorney Jeff Ostrow confirmed to ESPN on Monday.
As first reported by TMZ on Saturday, Lochte made the decision to “immediately” seek treatment after an incident last week at a Newport Beach hotel, when staff members called the police after the 34-year-old Olympic swimmer reportedly tried to kick in his room door. No arrests were made.
“Ryan has been battling alcohol addiction for many years and unfortunately it has become a destructive pattern for him,” Ostrow told TMZ. “He has acknowledged that he needs professional assistance to overcome his problem and will be getting help immediately. Ryan knows that conquering this disease now is a must for him to avoid making future poor decisions, to be the best husband and father he can be, and if he wants to achieve his goal to return to dominance in the pool in his fifth Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.”
The longtime U.S. swimming star is in the midst of a 14-month ban that runs until July 2019, which forced the 12-time Olympic medalist to miss the national championships in July and made him ineligible for other top meets, including the Pan Pacific Championships and next year’s world championships.
Lochte’s ban was due to an intravenous injection he received in May — a method typically not allowed under anti-doping rules. The ban, retroactive to May 24 and announced by USADA, is his second in less than two years after his 10-month suspension for his behavior during a drunken incident that created widespread scorn at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
U.S. anti-doping officials said Lochte was not taking a banned substance.
“I have never taken a prohibitive substance,” Lochte said. “I have never attempted to gain any advantage by putting anything illegal in my body. I would never do that; this is very serious to me. … Unfortunately, while the rule is a newer rule and is not widely known as others, I should know better.”
Lochte’s violation essentially came to light when he posted a 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.
“Lochte received an intravenous infusion of permitted substances at an infusion clinic,” the USADA announcement of the suspension said. Under most circumstances, athletes cannot receive IVs unless related to a hospitalization or when allowed under the terms of a USADA-approved exemption — and Lochte fell into neither of those categories.
Nationals would have been Lochte’s biggest competition since the 2016 Rio Games, where Lochte said he and three other U.S. Olympic swimmers there were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station, a story that quickly unraveled. Lochte was not only suspended 10 months for that incident, but also forfeited $100,000 in Olympic medal bonus money and was banned from competing in last year’s national and world championships.
Lochte has spent much of his career portraying a party-boy image, while his wildly successful exploits in the pool — six Olympic golds, 36 world championship gold medals, no fewer than four world records — were always overshadowed by 28-time Olympic medalist and 23-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps.
After Rio, Lochte was dropped by at least four major sponsors including Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren, although he has added some endorsement deals since. He was also apparently targeted by two men wearing T-shirts bearing an anti-Lochte message who rushed the stage while he was competing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
Lochte returned to competition last year, most notably winning the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. Open. He also has become a father and a husband since Rio.
Lochte will turn 36 during the Tokyo Games. He won gold medals at the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 games, and if he were to find a way to win another in Tokyo he would become the oldest Olympic swimming champion.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.