Olympian Michael Phelps has been suspended for six months from USA Swimming-sanctioned competition after his arrest for driving under the influence in Baltimore last week.
In announcing the decision Monday, USA Swimming also said Phelps will be withdrawn from the 2015 FINA World Championships team and that he will forfeit his funding from the national governing board for six months.
“Membership in USA Swimming, and particularly at the National Team level, includes a clear obligation to adhere to our Code of Conduct,” USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said in a statement. “Should an infraction occur, it is our responsibility to take appropriate action based on the individual case. Michael’s conduct was serious and required significant consequences.”
Mentally tough and physically well trained, strong and accomplished, Michael Phelps is dealing with the repercussions of a second DUI within a 10 year period, and he has publicly apologized via Twitter and vowed to deal with his issues.
Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps said Sunday he is “taking some time away” from swimming and will “attend a program that will provide the help I need to better understand myself” after his DUI arrest in Baltimore last week.
Phelps, 29, registered a .14 percent on a Breathalyzer test after he was stopped on a speeding violation last week, the second time he has been charged with a DUI in Maryland. Phelps also was charged with DUI in 2004 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and he received 18 months’ probation and a $250 fine. Phelps also was required to deliver a presentation on alcohol awareness to students at three high schools.
His second DUI trial is scheduled for Nov. 19. Previously the USA Swimming governing body suspended Phelps for three months in 2009 after a photo emerged showing Phelps using a marijuana pipe, even though he was never charged. USA Swimming has not taken any disciplinary action for his second DUI arrest. If he is convicted of the latest charges, he faces up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine and the loss of his driver’s license for six months.
ESPN reported that his representatives at Octagon say he entered an in-patient program that will keep him from competing at least through mid-November.
A statement from Octagon said Phelps was entering “a comprehensive program that will help him focus on all of his life experiences and identify areas of need for long-term personal growth and development.”
“Michael takes this matter seriously and intends to share his learning experiences with others in the future,” the statement said.
Phelps retired after the 2012 London Olympics, but made a comeback to competition in April and won three gold medals while representing the United States’ team in last month’s Pan Pacific championships.
Phelps, according to ESPN, has already qualified for the worlds, and was not planning to compete in the short course world championships, which will be held in early December in Qatar. The U.S. team for that meet, which includes Phelps rival Ryan Lochte, was announced last week.
Michael Phelps second DUI raises the question if the Olympic champion has more than just a “drinking problem.” Dr. Akikur Mohammad, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and professor of addiction medicine at University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, suggests that Phelps has all the classic signs of an alcoholic in need of medical treatment.
Dr. Akikur Mohammad is a leading authority on drug addiction and treatment. He is board-certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine, and teaches addiction medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine and is the medical director of the prestigious rehabilitation center Inspire Malibu. He tells Monsters and Critics:
“Being in the public eye is especially hard when you are an Olympian like Michael Phelps. This is a man who has spent his entire life striving for perfection and being better than anyone else in his field. He has also been under a microscope since breaking records at the 2008 Olympics when he was still basically a teenager. Until recently, he was planning on retiring from the sport that gave him so much but decided to come back and compete against much younger and possibly quicker athletes.
“I imagine that trying to be the same Michael Phelps that won so many fans from his early wins and the grueling training with an older body, plus the pressure to succeed has got to be overwhelming. These are the ingredients that can create a very disastrous situation if you already have an alcohol problem, which apparently Phelps does.
“While I don’t know Michael Phelps’ medical history, his pattern of criminalized behavior strongly suggests that he is more than just a heavy drinker. Most likely it’s not that he doesn’t want to stop drinking but rather that he can’t. The self-destructive, physiological cravings that an alcoholic experiences can only be managed through medical intervention.
“Alcoholism is a complex chronic disease with a strong genetic component that requires both behavioral and pharmaceutical therapies. While there is a role for 12-step, AA program for some patients, it should never be the exclusive or the focus of treatment. Let’s hope that Michael gets the kind of evidence-based therapy that he needs.”