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Olympic swimmer Brent Hayden taking ‘wait and see’ approach to vaccines before Games

If he qualifies for this summer’s Olympic Games, Canadian swimmer Brent Hayden would prefer to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before arriving in Tokyo.

That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t go without getting his jab. He also isn’t sure if he would use the vaccine being offered to Olympic athletes as part of a recent partnership announced by the International Olympic Committee and China.

“I think that would be something I have to talk to my coach about, to figure out what we think is going to be the best decision,” said Hayden, who won a bronze medal in the 100-metre freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics.

“I do want to be vaccinated, I want to be covered at the Olympics. I don’t want to catch it and spread it. Now whether or not that’s the China one … I’m just going to have to wait to see what my coach or what Swimming Canada recommends.”

In the recently announced agreement, the IOC entered into a partnership with the Chinese Olympic committee to buy and provide vaccines for people participating in the Tokyo Games and next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

None of the Chinese vaccines are approved for use in Canada.

In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would prefer Canadian athletes use Health Canada approved vaccines.

“Our strong preference is that any vaccine a Canadian athlete receives has been approved by Health Canada,” COC boss David Shoemaker said in a statement.

“The COC will continue to follow Health Canada guidelines and the recommendations of our chief medical officer and the return to sport task force for all matters relating to the health and safety of Team Canada.”

WATCH | Should Olympians cut in line for vaccine?:

Some athletes say they want to wait their turn. 2:20

A Swimming Canada spokesman said they are encouraging athletes to follow the COC guidelines.

At least one Olympic expert said he isn’t surprised the by the IOC’s decision to buy vaccines or that they are being purchased from China.

Michael Naraine, an assistant professor with Brock University’s department of sport, said IOC president Thomas Bach has pushed for the Tokyo Games to go ahead, even though concerns remain about COVID-19.

“They weren’t going to force athletes to take the vaccine, but they wanted to do everything they could to ensure health and safety,” said Naraine, who studies major games and the Olympic movement.

“It’s not surprising that China would be the place where they were able to procure them. The supply chains are really tight now when you’re thinking about all the different countries that are trying to procure. When you think about scale in the supply chain, China’s clearly the top dog.”

WATCH | Why a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the key to a fair Olympics:

Jacqueline Doorey speaks with Canadian middle distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, how it can affect the Olympics, and whether athletes deserve to cut the line. 5:51

The IOC is also “very bullish on China” considering it’s hosting next year’s Winter Games and some of the major sponsors that comes with that, he said.

While athletes in some countries may be hesitant over the IOC’s offer, for others it might be their best chance to access the vaccine.

“If I’m an athlete in a country which has a very heavy strain on health care and the public health system, you’re looking at this as jumping the global queue as far as vaccination and inoculation is concerned,” said Naraine.

Wrestler Erica Weibe, a gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, supports more athletes having access to the vaccine.

It would be great if the IOC’s partnership “can help athletes and citizens of countries with less robust vaccination plans than Canada,” the Stittsville, Ont., native told The Canadian Press last week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised that every Canadian adult who wants a vaccine will be able to receive a shot by the end of September.

In B.C., where Hayden lives, his age group is scheduled to receive their first round of the vaccine in May or June.

The Tokyo Games, which have been delayed a year due to COVID-19, are scheduled to open July 23.

Hayden, who retired after the London Games but decided to make a comeback for Tokyo, said not being vaccinated won’t stop him from competing.

“My goal is to go to the Olympics,” he said. “If I’m vaccinated or not vaccinated, I’m planning on going until they tell me I can’t go.”

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Canadian swimmer Maggie Mac Neil facing prospect of competing at Olympics without family

When Maggie Mac Neil won the 100-metre butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, her mother, father and younger sister were in the stands cheering.

“My parents have done a great job throughout my career always trying to come to as many meets as they can,” said the 20-year-old London, Ont., native who is now attending the University of Michigan. “It was definitely nice to have them there in Korea.”

When Mac Neil competes for Olympic gold this summer in Tokyo, it’s unlikely any family members will be there to watch. Concerns about COVID-19 and restrictions due to the virus are convincing friends and family of many Olympic athletes to rethink travelling to the Games.

Susan McNair, Mac Neil’s mother, said staying home won’t be easy.

“I didn’t grow up anticipating I would have a child in the Olympics,” McNair said. “I didn’t anticipate if she did make the Olympics that we would ever not be there.”

WATCH | Maggie Mac Neil posts Canadian-record time at aquatic worlds:

Canadian teen Maggie MacNeil posts a Canadian-record time of 55.83 seconds at the world aquatics championships. 2:56

Last March, Nathan Hirayama celebrated with his family in the stands at BC Place Stadium after Canada defeated South Africa to win the bronze medal at the HSBC Canada Sevens Rugby tournament. He had hoped to repeat the experience in Tokyo — his parents had already booked flights — but now doubts it will happen.

“Our families have been on this journey with us for so long, supporting us and travelling and staying up in the middle of the night watching,” said the 32-year-old from Richmond, B.C. “They invested in what we’re doing. I think the whole experience would be fantastic to share with our loved ones.

“I think what we’re coming to understand now is, if these Olympics do happen, they’ll look a lot different than what we all dreamed about or foreseen for so long.”

Fears over COVID-19 forced the Tokyo Olympics to be delayed one year. With the Games now scheduled to begin July 23, some of the playbooks that instruct athletes, officials and members of the media of the protocols to be followed have been released, but many questions remain.

“If you have been to the Games before, we know this experience will be different in a number of ways,” reads the playbook for international federations. “For all Games participants, there will be some conditions and constraints that will require your flexibility and understanding.”

WATCH | Breaking down the IOC playbook:

With less than six months to go to the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have said the Games will go on no matter what. Now, they’ve released some preliminary guidelines explaining how that will happen. 1:37

Organizers have said they will wait until the spring to decide if fans will be permitted to travel to Tokyo or attend any events.

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, believes a limited number of fans will be allowed.

“I would see some, but certainly not full stadiums,” he said.

The Canadian Olympic Committee is waiting for more information before advising families and friends about travelling to Tokyo.

“We continue in our preparation to participate at Tokyo 2020 with a focus on the health and safety of our athletes, their families, and their communities,” Eric Myles, the COC’s chief sport officer, said in a statement.

“We are planning based on the assumptions that the COVID-19 virus will still be present internationally and that Team Canada may not be vaccinated. We expect the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to update their playbooks in April, at which point we hope to provide a more thorough update for athletes to help inform their family and friends’ decisions.”

WATCH | Mac Neil overcomes nerves to claim gold at acquatic worlds in 2019:

Canadian Maggie MacNeil discusses her victory in the 100m butterfly at aquatics worlds. 0:50

McNair, who is a family physician, had originally planned on her brother and his family to join them at the Olympics. Now, with tight restrictions expected on access to athletes, she questions the point of going.

“There’s a lot of factors kind of against going at this point,” she said. “Even if we didn’t have access to her there [but] we could see her swim, I think I’d be the first one on the plane.

“But there’s a lot of cons against it right now. I want the joy of watching her swim, but I also want to do what’s right, in terms of our safety and the safety of others.”

Another deterrent could be recently-introduced rules that travellers returning to Canada are required to take a COVID-19 test upon landing and spend the first three days of their quarantine, at their own expense, at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results.

For Hirayama, whose great grandparents came to Canada from Japan, Tokyo has special significance. His parents had planned to meet up with old friends while in Japan.

He hopes conditions will change and his parents can make the trip.

“It’s hard to plan for anything that’s not a week away,” he said. “Things change so quickly. It would be awesome for them to book a last minute ticket, but I don’t think they’re planning on it now.”

In some ways, not having her parents make the journey would be a relief for Mac Neil.

“My parents are getting older,” she said. “It’s definitely better for them to just stay home safe and healthy.

“I think no matter where I am in the world, no matter where they are, I can always feel their support.”

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‘I win, I win, you lose’: Sun Yang confronts British swimmer after another podium snub

Sun Yang was in the middle of controversy at the world swimming championships again.

The Chinese star got shunned on the medals podium again.

Sun won the 200-metre freestyle on Tuesday night after Danas Rapsys of Lithuania finished first and got disqualified for an apparent false start.

Sun touched second, but got elevated after Rapsys had already celebrated in the pool.

Sun appeared surprised, clasping his hands to his face, but quickly sat on the lane rope and raised both arms in the air as a mix of cheers and boos rang out.

Katsuhiro Matsumoto of Japan took silver. Martin Malyutin of Russia and Duncan Scott of Britain tied for bronze.


Snubbed on the podium again

On the podium, Scott wanted no part of sharing the moment with Sun.

Scott kept his hands clasped behind his back and refused to shake Sun’s hand, standing off on his own while the other medalists joined Sun to pose for photographers.

After leaving the podium, it appeared as though Sun confronted Scott and said, “I win, I win, you lose.”

WATCH | Sun Yang gets the brush off:

China’s Sun Yang is once again shunned by a competitor on the medals podium, this time by Great Britain’s Duncan Scott. Sun faces a lifetime ban if found guilty of smashing vials of his blood with a hammer during a clash last year with drug testers. 1:04

Sun, who served a three-month doping ban in 2014, is being allowed by FINA to compete in Gwangju ahead of a Court for Arbitration in Sport hearing in September that threatens Sun’s career.

After Sun won the 400 free, silver medallist Mack Horton of Australia refused to step on the podium or acknowledge Sun during the medals ceremony. FINA, swimming’s governing body, sent warning letters to Swimming Australia and Horton for his actions.

“FINA has currently done more to reprimand Mack Horton than they have done to reprimand Sun Yang,” said American Lilly King, who won the women’s 100 breaststroke.

Strong accusations

Sun has been accused of smashing vials of his blood with a hammer during a clash last year with testers, and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty.

“He does quite a good job of making sure everyone continues to know about it,” Scott said, referring to Sun’s pending doping case. “So I guess that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Sun spread his arms apart and looked at Scott as the Brit turned to come off the podium. Sun and the other two medalists stopped for photographers on the pool deck, but Scott kept on walking.

“The athletes are starting to stand up for themselves and stand up for what they believe in so, I commend them,” King said. “That’s incredibly brave.”

There were more boos — and cheers from Chinese fans — in the crowd at Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center.

“If people are booing him it’s for a reason,” British swimmer Adam Peaty said of Sun. “He should be asking himself now should he really be in a sport when people are booing him?”

Peaty said Scott’s action was “completely right.”

“The most important thing as a sports person is you have a right to a voice,” Peaty said. “Duncan shared his voice and so did the crowd, so it’s completely fair.”

Sun, the current Olympic champion in the 200 free, earned his third straight medal in the event at worlds and second gold in a row.

He was timed in one minute, 44.93 seconds.

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Swimmer Ryan Lochte suspended 14 months for anti-doping violation

Ryan Lochte posted a photo for the world to see, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency noticed.

It got him suspended — again.

The longtime U.S. swimming star has been banned from competition until July 2019, which means the 12-time Olympic medalist cannot compete as planned in the national championships that start this week in California. Lochte will also be ineligible for other top meets, including the Pan Pacific Championships later this year and next year's world championships.

Lochte's offence was that he got an intravenous injection in May — a method typically banned under anti-doping rules. The 14-month ban, retroactive to May 24 and announced Monday by USADA, is his second in less than two years following his 10-month suspension for his behaviour during a drunken incident that created widespread scorn at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

U.S. anti-doping officials said Lochte, who was holding a news conference Monday in South Florida to discuss the matter, was not taking a banned substance.

In Brazil, he there were questions about his version of what happened.

This time, he revealed what happened — obviously unaware of the ramifications it would bring.

Lochte's violation essentially came to light when he posted the 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.

Suspensions for use of an IV are extremely rare: The USADA database shows only two other athletes being sanctioned for using such a method, one of them getting a six-month suspension and the other a 14-month ban. That same database shows that before Monday, no other U.S. swimmer in the last 10 years, for any reason including actual positive tests, had been suspended for more than one year by USADA.

This week could have been a significant step forward for Lochte, who was entered in four events at the U.S. championships at Irvine, California and was preparing to compete in what would have been his biggest competition since the Rio Games. Lochte said that 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 debacle, but also forfeited $ 100,000 US in Olympic medal bonus money and was banned from competing in last year's national and world championships.

But the bigger hit was to his reputation, one that was less than pristine to begin with.

And now, he's back in hot water. USADA agreed to start the 14-month clock on May 24, the day that he posted the photo which no longer can be found on his Twitter or Instagram pages. He has previously said that he wants to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, though those hopes would seem to be in at least some doubt now.

Lochte 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, though he has added some endorsement deals since. He was also apparently targeted by two men wearing t-shirts bearing an anti-Lochte message 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-metre individual medley at the U.S. Open. He also has become a father and a husband since Rio — he married former Playboy model Kayla Rae Reid in January, seven months after their son was born. Lochte will turn 36 during the Tokyo Games. He won gold medals at the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 games, and if he found a way to win another in Tokyo he would become the oldest Olympic swimming champion.

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Paralympic Swimmer Victoria Arlen Joins 'DWTS' — and She's Paired With a Fan Favorite!

The Boston, Massachusetts, native is currently a television personality for ESPN, as well as an actress, speaker and model who has beat the odds.

When she was just 11 years old, Arlen developed two rare conditions known as transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. This caused her to quickly lose the ability to speak, eat, walk and move, and was told by doctors that there was little hope for survival and that recovery was highly unlikely.

Flash forward to 2010, and the impossible was made possible when Arlen learned how to speak, eat and move again. Two years later, Arlen qualified for the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London as a paralympic swimmer with Team USA. She won four medals that year: one gold and three silver.

Then, in 2016, she learned how to walk after spending nearly a decade paralyzed from the waist down.

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World record-breaking swimmer Masse adds bronze in mixed relay

Canada’s Kylie Masse added to her medal haul at the world aquatics championships. 

One day after making history, Masse, along with Edmonton’s Richard Funk, Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak and Calgary’s Yuri Kisil combined to finish in a tie for third place with China on Wednesday in the mixed 4×100-metre medley relay in Budapest.

“That mixed relay is something I’ve never done before and isn’t offered at a lot of meets,” Masse said. “To be able to do it here at world championships was so much fun. To compete for other people as well makes it even better and is almost more motivating. It was a really fun experience.”


Canada stopped the clock in three minutes 41.25 seconds, while the Americans, who finished first, lowered their world-record time to 3:38.56 at Duna Arena. Australia was second in 3:41.21.

“Canada felt it had a shot at a medal after crunching numbers of the other countries’ best swims,” said CBC Sports swimming analyst Byron MacDonald.

Masse, who set a world mark in the 100 backstroke on Tuesday, swam first in the mixed medley relay and stopped the clock in 58.22, one-tenth of a second slower than her 58.10 record time.

“It takes courage to put the female swimmer first as it’s a test psychologically and physically, but Kylie is the best in the world [in the 100m backstroke] so it made sense to lead with her,” said MacDonald, Masse’s coach at the University of Toronto. “She set up the team for a run at the medals, and full marks to the three other swimmers who did their job and didn’t panic.”

MacDonald said Funk, the second swimmer, found himself in unfamiliar territory of being significantly behind the competition.

“The physical challenge,” MacDonald added, “is there are way more waves when you are that far behind. As [Funk] approaches the finish [of his 100 breaststroke] the other teams’ next relay swimmers are diving in the water creating a huge splash, thus more resistance for the team that is trailing.”

Canada sat seventh after Funk’s breaststroke (59.14) and Oleksiak’s butterfly (56.18). Kisil then charged past Great Britain, Russia and Italy in the freestyle to vault Canada into the third-place tie. 

Kisil finished 10th in the 100-metre freestyle semifinals with a time of 48.50.

In the morning heat, Funk teamed with Toronto’s Javier Acevedo, Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., and Winnipeg’s Chantal Van Landeghem, who also receive medals for advancing Canada to the final by qualifying third. That foursome held the Canadian record at 3:44.46 for a few hours before the final.

On Tuesday, Masse became the first female Canadian swimmer to win a world title, her time snapping the longest-standing record in women’s swimming of 58.12, held since 2009.

‘We’re all proud to get on the podium’ : Canada’s mixed medley 4x100m team on bronze medal1:51

Masse also became the first Canadian to win a world championship since Brent Hayden claimed gold in the men’s 100 free 10 years ago.

Americans Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel easily eclipsed the mark of 3:40.28 put up by an entirely different U.S. foursome — Ryan Murphy, Kevin Cordes, Kelsi Worrell and Mallory Comerford — in the morning preliminaries.

The mixed medley relay was added to the world championships two years ago in Kazan, Russia, where Britain set the previous record of 3:41.71. It will be part of the Olympic program for the first time at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

In all, seven world records have been broken at this year’s worlds in Budapest.

In the 100 free semifinals, Kisil finished 10th in 48.50.

Masse misses mark in backstroke

Masse of LaSalle, Ont., followed up her world record performance by placing 10th and lowering her Canadian mark in the 50-metre backstroke to 27.64 seconds, just 0.04 seconds short of earning a spot in Thursday’s final.

“She can take away that she is swimming with enough speed to do her best time, even though we did not make that the main focus this summer,” said MacDonald of the 21-year-old Masse.

Kylie Masse’s world record takes over Twitter0:52

Masse’s previous mark of 27.67 was set June 24, 2016 in Rome.

“The 50 was never a priority,” MacDonald said. “We actually talked over the summer about not swimming it. We did no work in the 50. All Kylie’s work was geared to the 100 and 200 backstroke.

“Kylie is still very good in the 50 but she needs some extra strength and power to be able to challenge for medals. She does not yet have the speed to take down the [elite].”

MacDonald noted Masse got to bed late Tuesday night following doping test protocol, media interviews and text messaging with her friends about her record-setting day.

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