The Olympian was suspended for a year after posting a picture of himself using an IV on social media
With Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte having been suspended from competitive swimming until summer 2019, the 33-year-old has no intention of wasting his newfound free time, his agent tells PEOPLE.
The six-time gold medalist’s ban was announced this week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency concluded an investigation into a now-deleted picture he posted to social media in May. The photograph showed Lochte receiving an IV infusion, a practice prohibited by the agency.
“Some people think it was foolish that he didn’t know this rule,” Lochte’s agent, Jeff Ostrow, tells PEOPLE. “Before yesterday, if you polled 10 swimmers, I bet you nine of them would have no idea they couldn’t do this.” (Speaking with ESPN, however, several other top swimmers said they were well aware of the restriction.)
While Lochte was not found to have been injected with a banned substance and was said to have been cooperative throughout the investigation, the agency took exception with the swimmer having received an IV injection “in a volume greater than 100 mL within a 12-hour period” without getting a special “Therapeutic Use Exemption.”
Lochte was banned for 14 months, with the suspension retroactively beginning in May and lasting until July 2019. He previously faced a suspension in 2016 after exaggerating a robbery story during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“This wasn’t like a childish thing, this was something that he was doing for his immune system and didn’t know it was on the list of things he couldn’t do,” Ostrow says. “He’s at a much different place than he was a few years ago and enjoying life and his family and he’s much more mature than he was… this is such a crazy fluke thing.”
During a press conference on Monday, Lochte told reporters that he was unaware of the rule disallowing IV use and explained that he wouldn’t have done it — let alone post about it on Instagram — if he had known otherwise.
Lochte’s sponsors have so far been more understanding to the athlete than the USADA, as TYR Sport — a swimwear company that took on Lochte as a partner in 2017 — came to his defense and announced they would retain him during the suspension.
Though the ban is undoubtedly a “big setback,” Ostrow says Lochte will continue training over the next year to remain competition-ready come next July.
“It’s not ideal, but Ryan’s in incredible shape right now and he’ll be able to compete again in a year,” he says. “He’ll have to miss some significant stuff along the way, but I know Ryan better than anyone and I know how he is and this is going to be more fuel to the fire than we ever could have thrown on independently.”
He’ll also be able to use some of his time to plan an upcoming party, as he and Kayla will be throwing a ceremony in California to celebrate their marriage in January.
“He’s an incredible father, he loves being a father,” Ostrow says. “He’s enjoying being a husband. They’re having a wedding in September.”
With Lochte set to miss numerous competitions throughout his suspension, having a healthy balance between training and family time will be imperative, since the Olympic Games in Tokyo — which will likely be Lochte’s last — are only two years away.
“Ryan is the consummate competitor and nobody’s got more drive than that guy,” says Ostrow. “It’s unfortunate, but he’ll be at the top again and he’ll be back on the podium in Japan.”
After the fiasco of Rio de Janeiro, and now this most recent controversy, Ostrow says Lochte will be eager to end his Olympic career with a bang.
“People are looking for the comeback story from Rio,” he says, “when he comes back, he’s going to come back as good as he’s ever been, he’s going to shock the world.”