Michael Brinegar, Former U.S. Olympian, Ruled Out of Trials Due to Alleged Doping

The distance freestyler will not get the chance to contest the men's 1500-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic swim trials Saturday as a result.
Brinegar, who swam the 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyles in Tokyo, faces a multi-year ban.
Brinegar, who swam the 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyles in Tokyo, faces a multi-year ban. / Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Tokyo Olympian Michael Brinegar has been ruled out of the men’s 1,500-meter freestyle at Olympic Swimming Trials due to alleged blood doping in 2022, the swimmer revealed Saturday.

Brinegar says the Court for Arbitration in Sport ruled in favor of the United States Anti-Doping Association Friday, after it appealed an earlier decision that would allow him to swim. Earlier in the Trials, Brinegar finished 17th in the 400 freestyle and 12th in the 800 free before being sidelined by the CAS ruling.

Brinegar says he was informed last summer by the United States Anti-Doping Association that blood test results from July, August and September 2022 showed evidence of blood doping while he was out of training. Brinegar, who swam the 1,500 and 800 in the Olympics in 2021, said the allegations are “utterly unfounded.”

“I could not believe what I was reading,” Brinegar said of his initial USADA ban. “If I contested the finding, I would be subject to a four-year ban, or the ban would be reduced to two years if I did not contest the finding. In addition, if I turned in anyone else, my sentence could be reduced an additional year. I was devastated. But knowing that I had not cheated, I chose to fight.

“I have never taken any banned substances and my commitment to competing on a fair and level playing field is unwavering. After an independent arbitrator initially ruled in my favor in late November 2023, I turned my attention towards fulfilling my dream again of representing my country at the Paris Olympics. In early January, I received notification that USADA was appealing the arbitrator’s decision in my favor and must prove my innocence once more.”

Michael Brinegar (USA) dives into the pool in the men's 1500m freestyle heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games.
Brinegar finished 17th in the 400 freestyle and 12th in the 800 earlier in this year's Trials. / Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Brinegar is the son of 1976 Olympian Jennifer Hooker Brinegar, who finished sixth in Montreal in the 200 freestyle. Those Olympics occurred amid a cloud of allegations about East German doping that ultimately were proved true.

“As an Olympian and the son of an Olympic swimmer whose U.S. women’s team faced an East German team that was systematically doping, cheating is a betrayal of everything I have been taught and stand for,” Michael Brinegar said. “I am deeply disappointed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS’s) ruling and USADA’s accusations that are utterly unfounded.”

Said Jamie Brinegar, Michael’s father: “I know my son, and robbing him of what he has done his entire life and what he loves—swimming—is truly devastating."

Brinegar is the second prominent distance freestyler who was ruled out of this meet after doping allegations. Kensey McMahon received a four-year ban from the sport after testing positive for a prohibited substance.

Those USADA bans come within the context of April revelations of positive drug tests by 23 Chinese swimmers in 2021 that were never publicized and did not result in any punishment. The controversy erupted and will loom over the Paris Olympics next month.

“The closer it gets, the noisier it’s going to get,” says Stanford coach Greg Meehan, who was the U.S. women's head coach in Tokyo in 2021.

Pat Forde


Pat Forde covers college sports, the Olympics and horse racing for Sports Illustrated. Pat wrote two books and was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. In addition to his work at SI, Pat is also the co-host of the College Football Enquirer podcast. He is an analyst for the Big Ten Network and contributes to national radio shows. In a career spanning more than three decades, Pat has worked at Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and the Louisville Courier-Journal.