By Michael Sopow, Sports Reporter
On September 30, Olympian Michael Phelps was arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI). The 29-year-old Phelps, well-known as a decorated athlete with a total 22 Olympic medals, has received a six-month suspension from competition and will not be competing in the 2015 FINA World Swimming Championship.
“I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility,” Phelps stated in a three-part tweet. “I am deeply sorry to everyone I have let down.”
This is not the first time the swimmer has apologized to the public. Phelps was given an 18-month probation and a $250-fine when he was arrested for an earlier DUI in 2004. Then in 2009, a photo of Phelps using a bong caused mass controversy. Although Phelps did not receive any charges for violating his contract, he lost various sponsorships as a result of damaging his public image as an Olympic athlete.
In addition to his disciplines from USA Swimming, Phelps will lose six months of funding since this was his second DUI. Phelps is also prohibited from participating in USA Swimming-sanctioned meets through April 6, 2015, or until further notice.
USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said in a public statement, “Membership in USA Swimming, and particularly at the National Team level, includes a clear obligation to adhere to our Code of Conduct. 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.”
While Phelps is prohibited from competing at a professional level, he is not restricted from training with his member club.
Dara Torres, 12-time Olympic medalist, told Reuters in a telephone interview that it’s possible Phelps could be present with the US squad for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “I don’t think the suspension is going to affect him physically, because they’re not saying he can’t train. He just can’t compete [for now].”
“He can still stay in shape and he knows what to expect and how to compete. It’s not like he’s starting something new.
In the days since his DUI, Phelps announced via Twitter on October 5 that he had entered himself into a six-week rehab “program.” In a two-part tweet he stated, “Swimming is a major part of my life, but right now I need to focus my attention on me as an individual, and do the necessary work to learn from this experience.”
Phelps’ trial is set for the date of November 19, and the swimmer could face a minimum $1,000-fine, temporary loss of his driver’s license, and possible jail time.