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Olympic Swimmer Anthony Ervin Overcomes Demons to Recapture Gold

Former Cal star details his struggles and how he overcame them in new book

Drugs, booze and tangles with the police. It hardly sounds like the road to Olympic gold.

But it was, for U.S. swimmer Anthony Ervin.

On Tuesday night, the tattooed rebel with Bay Area roots was back in Berkeley promoting his new book. In it, he details how his past wasn't always so golden.

Ervin won gold in Sydney in 2000. Then, 16 years later, he captured gold again in Rio.

While those Olympic moments of glory may serve as bookends to Ervin's swimming career, the chapters in between tell a story of self-destruction - and redemption.

"If there were such a thing as a post-modern swimmer, he'd be the poster boy," Constantine Markides, co-author of "Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian."

Ervin admits the struggles after the 2000 games, including drugs and alcohol, were important for him to write about.

"The weaknesses and insecurities I had to contend with in order to keep moving forward," he said.

Markides added, "I think a lot of athlete bios, you don't see that in them, and that's why they often feel like fluff pieces to so many people. He did not want to do that."

Ervin would ultimately miss two Olympics before competing again in London and winning two golds in Rio.

"I had some really great people around me, which I tried to give great credit to in the book," Ervin said.

In Rio, as Ervin again reached the podium, his teammates were suddenly the ones in the spotlight for their less than golden behavior. A controversial stop at a gas station in Brazil, where Ryan Lochte claimed he and three others were robbed, led to an international controversy and four Team USA suspensions.

Ervin certainly has an opinion on the incident.

"I advocated heavily for the two younger members of those four, who I really felt were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

With gold once again around his neck, Ervin said he plans to travel and spend time with family. He's not sure what comes next or if he’ll continue to swim.

"The drive to become stronger and faster, that is on vacation right now," he said.

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