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The Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte bromance has soured

Conor Dwyer explains Phelps-Lochte rivalry and friendship. (Stacy St. Clair/Chicago Tribune)

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have competed in four Olympics together. They've roomed together, eaten together and grown old (relatively speaking) together.

But after Lochte became Rio's most wanted man after fabricating his story of being robbed at gunpoint at a gas station by men masquerading as police, Phelps kept his distance, according to a USA Today story.

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After Lochte returned to Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 17 with his girlfriend — the same day Brazilian authorities sought his passport, and also the day Lochte said he had planned to leave the country — he decided to reach out to his old friend.

Phelps had his own crisis management experience. He was arrested in September 2014 after driving drunk in Baltimore and being pulled over by police outside the Fort McHenry Tunnel for going 84 mph in a 45-mph zone.

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Yet during Lochte's six days of seclusion in Charlotte, he couldn't reach Phelps by phone. They exchanged text messages, but the phone call Lochte expected to come never did.

It was Team USA day at the White House, which meant President Barack Obama talked a good deal about two Olympians who grew up swimming not far from Washington.

"I think he texted me back saying, 'Yeah, sure. I'm here to help,' or something like that," Lochte told USA Today. "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."

Maybe Phelps was busy sleeping or dropping by "America's Got Talent" or managing son Boomer's Instagram feed. Maybe he didn't want to talk to the guy he warned before the Rio incident: "Keep your head on straight."

Whatever the reason, Lochte told the paper there were no hard feelings.

"I figured it could have been like his people saying, 'Don't associate with [Lochte] right now. Lay low,' " he said. "It could be anything.

"He's busy. He has his own life. He has a kid. So it's gotta be hard, you know?"

Phelps limbered up by dropping his driver, bending over and doing his signature arm-swinging, back-slapping warmup.

Phelps has kept largely mum on the matter publicly, unless you want to read his rendition of "Lose Yourself" as some kind of performative chastising. He told People magazine in late August that it was "hard to see a friend and a competitor going through a hard time like this." He said he could empathize.

"Hopefully he can come out of this a better person," Phelps said. "I've reached out to him a couple times and I think he understands a lot. He will be able to grow from this."

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