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Phelps switches from Speedo, signs deal with Aqua Sphere

Michael Phelps has been linked with Speedo throughout his career, most notably collecting a $1 million bonus after he won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

As he comes back from retirement, the most decorated athlete in Olympics history will have a different look.

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Phelps announced Tuesday he has signed a deal with Aqua Sphere, a company that has extensive experience with triathlons and recreational swimming but will be designing a racing suit for the first time.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been able to do a lot of things with Speedo. The relationship was great,” the 29-year-old Phelps said. “But we came to a point where we had an opportunity to really change the sport and grow the sport even more.”

Terms of the contract were not released, but it runs through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, will work with Aqua Sphere on a line of products beyond racing suits, all carrying the swimmer’s name.

The deal seems to be a coup for Aqua Sphere as it tries to carve out a niche alongside established swimsuit companies such as Arena and Speedo.

Phelps had been sponsored by Speedo since he was 16, and starred in Beijing in a high-tech suit the company designed with help from NASA. The deal ran out at the end of last year.

“We’ll always be associated with Michael’s success, and Michael will always be associated with us. It’s kind of like the Packers and Brett Favre,” said Jim Gerson, president of Speedo USA.

Gerson is from Spokane.

Under FINA guidelines, any new suits must be approved by the governing body and can be worn in competition starting Jan. 1. Aqua Sphere officials are confident about designing a suit Phelps will be comfortable in and allows him to go as fast as he would in the Arena suit he has been wearing since returning to competition.

Phelps plans to wear an Aqua Sphere cap and goggles at the national championships, which start Wednesday in Irvine, Calif.


Spain’s Xavi exits national team

Xavi Hernandez, Spain’s leading playmaker in its run of three major titles, has retired from international duty after a disappointing World Cup this year in Brazil.

Flanked by fellow FC Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, Xavi was a key component of Spain’s “tiki-taka” passing style during its unprecedented run of winning the World Cup in 2010 and European championships in 2008 and 2012.

“I have taken the decision to leave the selection,” said Xavi, 34, who was voted the best player of the 2008 European championship. “I think my time has ended.”

Xavi said he will continue to play for Barcelona; he has two years left on his contract.

Strip-searches are criticized

Russian Premier League officials condemned the treatment of female fans who say they were strip-searched by male police before a match in Kazan, a 2018 World Cup host city.

Several Spartak Moscow fans say police detained women outside the stadium at Friday’s match against Rubin Kazan unless they complied.

In a widely read blog post in Russia, fan Ekaterina Stepanova wrote that women were singled out and “required to strip, and that includes being demanded to remove their underwear” for a search lasting up to 10 minutes.

College football

Jack takes out insurance policy

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, a sophomore from Bellevue, has taken out an insurance policy that would provide financial security should an injury curtail his sports future.

Jack’s policy reportedly will pay $5 million, according to a Los Angeles Times story.

“I just want to protect myself,” he said. “I don’t worry about injuries. It doesn’t faze me. But it’s like protecting a car. You want to be safe. Anything can happen.”

Icing on treats won’t be an issue

The NCAA will allow South Carolina to ice away on future cookie cakes.

School officials said the self-reported violation for having decorative icing on football prospects’ cookie cakes will no longer count as an infraction.

NCAA spokeswoman Emily James, via Twitter, said the organization had talked with South Carolina and Southeastern Conference officials and all parties “agree it’s not a concern & will not be processed as a violation.”


• The family of former California defensive end Ted Agu filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California, alleging “reckless and negligent behavior” by the staff toward an athlete known to have sickle cell trait.

The suit said Agu, 21, died after experiencing “extreme fatigue” during an offseason training run in Berkeley on Feb. 7. The suit also said the university was negligent for hiring and retaining trainer Robert Jackson, who previously worked at Central Florida, where he was the sole certified athletic trainer present when wide receiver Ereck Plancher died after conditioning drills in 2008.

• College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell fired men’s basketball coach Doug Wojcik, 50.

Players, assistant coaches and staffers in the athletic department had said Wojcik verbally abused them.

Chase Jeter, a prep forward from Las Vegas who is rated among the top 15 basketball prospects in the nation by recruiting services ESPN and Scout, committed to play for Duke. He also considered Arizona, UCLA and UNLV.

Bernie Ecclestone, 83, is free to concentrate on running Formula One after a German court dropped a bribery case against him in exchange for a $100 million payment.

The charges involved a $44 million payment to banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is serving 8½ years for taking the money. Ecclestone denied wrongdoing and said Gribkowsky, who was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB’s 47 percent stake in F1 in 2005, blackmailed him.

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