Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence on Tuesday, raising questions about what the charges might mean for the 29-year-old former retiree’s fresh comeback.
Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, was also charged with speeding and crossing double lane lines in the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, The Associated Press reported. This is Phelps’ second DUI charge in Maryland. A native of Baltimore County, he faced the first charge in 2004. He was placed on probation for 18 months and fined $250.
In 2009, when Phelps was photographed smoking a marijuana pipe, Kellogg's did not renew a major sponsorship deal and USA Swimming suspended him for three months, The New York Times reported.
“We decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero,” the organization said in a statement at the time.
The incident comes on the heels on Phelps’ comeback meet in international competition. At the end of August, he finished at the Pan Pacific championships with three gold medals -- the 100 butterfly, 4x200 and medley relays -- and silvers in the 200 IM and the 4x100 relay, ESPN reported.
Phelps said it was a “good haul” considering he only returned to competitive swimming in April after a year and a half in retirement.
Since Phelps’ return from retirement in April, it seems he’s been testing the waters for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
He retired in August 2012 with an unprecedented 22 Olympic medals, and made little mention of a return during a year of travel and golfing, CNN reported. Speculation about an Olympic bid sparked when he re-entered the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s testing program last November, beginning a nine-month wait required before a swimmer can again compete.
At this point, it's unclear how the DUI charge will affect Phelps' current and future sponsorships or any possible role on the 2016 US Olympic team. But given his past offenses, it's likely there will be consequences. Phelps has not formally committed to competing for a spot on the US team. This incident may raise fresh concerns about his participation in the Rio games. In the past, he's expressed frustration with the strict training regime required to reach Olympic levels of competition.
On Tuesday afternoon, Phelps took to Twitter to make a public statement about the arrest and issue an apology:
“The news regarding Michael Phelps and his actions are disappointing and unquestionably serious,” USA Swimming said in a statement. “We expect our athletes to conduct themselves responsibly in and out of the pool.”
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement that he was surprised and “disappointed on a number of fronts,” but would defer to Phelps and USA Swimming before saying more.
Phelps was pulled over in his white 2014 Land Rover around 1:40 a.m. when a Maryland Transportation Authority officer clocked him at 84 mph in a 45-mph zone, according to the AP.
“Mr. Phelps was identified as the driver by his driver's license and appeared to be under the influence,” an MTA statement said. “He was unable to perform satisfactorily a series of standard field sobriety tests.”
The statement said Phelps was cooperative throughout the process, the AP noted.