Ryan Lochte’s back, everyone. Just not quite how you might remember him.
When we last left one of America’s most accomplished swimmers, he had been suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for 14 months after incriminating himself with an Instagram post showing him hooked up to an illegal IV.
That came only a couple years after receiving a 10-month ban for triggering an international incident by lying about an alleged gas station robbery, five years after the quick cancellation of his bro-tastic “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” show and six years after he capably played a “sex idiot” on NBC’s “30 Rock.” There were a few Olympic medals somewhere in there as well.
What can we say, the man had a brand. However, with Lochte’s return from suspension on Wednesday, the 34-year-old seems ... pretty different.
Ryan Lochte returns to swimming
Swimming in an official event for the first time since June 3, 2018, Lochte posted a 1:57.88 in a 200 IM time trial at the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships on Wednesday.
That’s the fourth-best time by an American this season and good enough to qualify him for the 2020 Olympic trials, according to SwimSwam. Lochte is also entered in the 100 fly, 100 back, 200 free and 400 IM at Palo Alto this week.
So the 12-time Olympic medalist can still swim pretty fast, though he still has some work to do to carve out a spot on next year’s Olympic team. The bigger personal news for Lochte is that he checked into a rehab center for alcohol addiction last year, and seems to have gone sober outside of a self-reported glass of wine when his second child was born in June.
“I don’t care for [alcohol],” Lochte said in a news conference after the event. “I have bigger and better things going on in my life. I’m glad that I went to rehab and got checked out. It helped me out. It helped put things in perspective in my life, and what is really more important than going out to a bar and getting hammered or doing anything like that. I go home and I get to play with my kids and kiss and hold my wife. That to me is everything.’’
Ryan Lochte through his career
Ryan Lochte through his career
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Ryan Lochte of the United States attends a press conference in the Main Press Center on Day 7 of the Rio Olympics on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
ATHENS, Greece: US Ryan Lochte poses on the podium after winning the men's 200m individual medley final, at the 2004 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatic Center in Athens, 19 August 2004. Lochte took the silver medal. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
MONTREAL - JULY 29: (L-R) Markus Rogan of Austria wins the silver medal, Aaron Peirsol of the United States wins the gold medal and Ryan Lochte of the United States wins the bronze medal in the 200 meter Backstroke final during the XI FINA World Championships at the Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 29, 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Peirsol set a new world record of 1:54.66. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 09: Ryan Lochte of the USA celebrates winning gold and breaking the world record with USA team mate Jayme Cramer in the men's 200m backstroke final during day five of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) held at Qi Zhong Stadium on April 9, 2006 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - DECEMBER 01: World-Record Holder Ryan Lochte of Florida swims the Butterfly leg in the Men's 400M Individual Medley Prelim Heats during the 2006 U.S. Open of Swimming on December 1, 2006 at the Boilermaker Aquatics Center in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Ryan Lochte of the USA poses with his silver medal following the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final during the XII FINA World Championships at the Rod Laver Arena on March 29, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Michael Phelps of the United States (L) celebrates victory and a new world record in the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final with second place Ryan Lochte of the United States during the XII FINA World Championships at the Rod Laver Arena on April 1, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Ryan Lochte attends THE CINEMA SOCIETY with CHANEL BEAUTE & VOGUE host the after party for 'THE DUCHESS' at Cooper Square Hotel on September 10, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by BiLLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
BEIJING - AUGUST 13: Ryan Lochte of the United States finishes the Men's 200m Backstroke Heat 6 in first place held at the National Aquatics Center on Day 5 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 13, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
' Ryan Lochte of USA displays his medal to the media photographers after receiving the Gold medal for the Men's 400m IM at the World Swimming Championships in Rome, Italy on Sunday, August 2, 2009. Photo Tim Clayton ' (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ryan Lochte attends Cocktails with a Cause benefitting Sophie's Voice Foundation at the Hearst Tower on September 14, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 690 -- Pictured: (l-r) Olympian Ryan Lochte during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on August 24, 2012 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Ryan Lochte appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
US swimmer Ryan Lochte reacts after he competed in the final of the men's 200-metre individual medley swimming event in the FINA World Championships at the indoor stadium of the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai on July 28, 2011. Lochte won the men's 200m individual medley in world record time, beating team-mate Michael Phelps. Lochte lowered his own record by one tenth of a second to 1min 54.00sec. AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 28: Ryan Lochte of the United States poses with his gold medal after winning in a new world record time the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final during Day Thirteen of the 14th FINA World Championships at the Oriental Sports Center on July 28, 2011 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 16: Ryan Lochte of USA reacts after swimming the last leg on the Men's 4x100m Medely Relay during day five of the 11th FINA Short Course World Championships at the Sinan Erdem Dome on December 16, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
US swimmer Michael Phelps (C) poses on the podium with the gold medal flanked by silver medalist US swimmer Ryan Lochte (R) and bronze medalist Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (L) after winning the men's 200m individual medley swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 2, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 21: Swimmer Ryan Lochte (L) and singer Miley Cyrus speak onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
Gold medalist US swimmer Ryan Lochte (C), silver medalist Japan's Kosuke Hagino (L) and bronze medalist Brazil's Thiago Pereira pose on the podium during the award ceremony of the men's 200-metre individual medley swimming event in the FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on August 1, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 06: Ryan Lochte of USA looks on after the Men's 100m Individual Medley heats on day four of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the Hamad Aquatic Centre on December 6, 2014 in Doha, Qatar (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Ryan Lochte attends the 2015 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Awards at J.W. Marriot at L.A. Live on November 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11, 2016: Michael Phelps (L) and Ryan Lochte of the United States look on after the men's 200m individual medley final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. It is 22nd Olympic gold for Phelps. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 9: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Francis Haas (hidden) of Team USA celebrate winning the gold medal during the medal ceremony of the men's 200m freestyle relay on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2306' - The nine remaining celebrities ready themselves for one of the hottest nights in the ballroom - Latin Night - with each celebrity performing either a rumba, salsa, samba, paso doblï¿½ cha cha or Argentine tango, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' live, MONDAY, OCTOBER 17 (8:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
RYAN LOCHTE, CHERYL BURKE
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In addition to his infant daugher Liv, Lochte also has a two-year-old son named Caiden. He said the family has given him a new outlook as he works to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I’m having fun swimming again. And I haven’t had fun since the 2012 Olympics, Lochte said. “It’s been a long time where I can honestly say I’m stepping out on that pool deck with a big smile on my face, and I owe it all to my kids and my wife. They’ve been my backbone throughout this whole journey these past three years. I’m having fun again. It’s awesome and I owe it all to them.’’
That’s all really encouraging to hear from Lochte, who couldn’t seem to stop reinforcing the talented but self-destructive image he had cultivated during the prime of his career. However, he still has a long road ahead of him before this is truly a successful comeback story in the pool, with both fellow swimmers and personal demons to hold off.