Swimmer Ryan Lochte Turned to Former Teammate Michael Phelps for Help Ahead of 2021 Olympic Trials
"He's helping me out a lot," Ryan Lochte said of champion Michael Phelps as he prepared for this week's U.S. Olympic swimming trials
Ryan Lochte is officially swimming toward Olympic glory once again, five years after he was suspended from the USA swimming national team and forced to leave the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics early.
The six-time Olympic gold medalist, 36, says he turned to his former teammate Michael Phelps when it came time to plot his comeback. "My confidence was really low. And then I started to talking to Michael Phelps," he said to USA Today.
"Because I know when he took a break from swimming, when he came back he was in the same boat," Lochte added. "He was doing horrible, way off his best times. So I talked to him and he's like, 'You've just done so much work that your body is beat up. So when you taper, you're going to light it up.' "
He took Phelps' advice, pulling back on his workouts and getting more rest ahead of this week's U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, and his performance has since improved. "He's helping me out a lot," Lochte said of Phelps, noting that they communicate once or twice weekly.
"Reaching out to Michael really helped Ryan because Michael's been through a lot and so has Ryan, and why not reach out to the best," said Ryan's dad, Steve Lochte. "And that's what Ryan said, 'Why not reach out to the best?'"
Ryan previously attempted reaching out to Phelps after he was suspended from the U.S. national swim team for 10 months, following a drunken incident at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in which he damaged a gas station sign and falsely reported he was robbed at gunpoint. He figured Phelps could help provide perspective, as he had navigated his own share of controversies, including pleading guilty to a DUI in 2014.
"I think he texted me back saying, 'Yeah, sure. I'm here to help,' or something like that,'' Lochte claimed to USA Today in Oct. 2014. "But he didn't call me. I was like, 'Hey, can you please call me? Let me know, I need help.' That never really happened.''
Charges against Ryan were ultimately dismissed, but his suspension stood and he lost all of his major sponsors. "I feel like let down a lot of people," he told PEOPLE at the time. "I feel bad that I've let them down."
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Then he was suspended again in 2018 for violating a restriction on IV use. Later that year, he entered a month-long rehab program for alcohol after a run-in with police at his California hotel room.
He's since focused his efforts on making a comeback at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which were postponed to this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, kicking off July 23. "I'm trying to prove to everyone that I can do this," Ryan told PEOPLE in July 2020. "You could say this is my redemption."