From DUI to Rehab and Recovery: Michael PhelpsPublished on 06. 06. 2015
Michael Phelps is a gifted athlete
There’s no doubt that Michael Phelps is a gifted athlete, and with a grand total of 22 medals (so far), he is the greatest Olympic medal-winner of all time. However, a couple of run-ins with the law put his career on hold and nearly derailed his chance of participating in the 2016 Olympic games at Rio de Janeiro.
Phelps’ latest go-round with the law occurred in 2014, when a Maryland state trooper noticed him driving erratically, shortly after leaving a Baltimore casino. Phelps pleaded guilty to Driving Under the Influence after failing a field sobriety test with a blood alcohol content of nearly double the state’s legal limit. He was also charged with speeding and crossing double lines.
This was the second DUI for the champion, who was sentenced to 18 months’ probation after a similar incident 10 years prior, which occurred shortly after the Olympics at Athens, Greece. At that time, Phelps was only 19, well under Maryland’s legal drinking age.
Phelps willingly agreed to enter treatment.
Although the 2014 arrest was Phelps’ second, he did not spend time in jail, reportedly because of the length of time since his first arrest, no accident resulted, and he willingly agreed to enter treatment. He did, however, earn a one-year suspended sentence, 18 months supervised probation and a suspended driver’s license.
Phelps was also suspended from the USA swim team for six months, which meant he was banned from swimming in USA-sanctioned meets through April, 2015. As a result, he was unable to participate in the 2015 World Championships in Russia. The ban also included a six-month loss of funding from the USA swim team.
The Olympic swimmer accepted the charges and said he found his scrape with the law humiliating. Phelps admitted that he was wrong and apologized for letting people down.
Soon after the hearing, Phelps entered an Arizona rehab center, where he received treatment for six months. He then transitioned to an aftercare program in his home state of Maryland, where he continues his recovery journey with counseling, regular treatment sessions and attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at least once every week.
The athlete was also subjected to intense public scrutiny after a photo of him smoking marijuana was released to the media in 2009. Phelps was not charged, but he was publicly reprimanded and suspended from competition for three months. The incident also cost Phelps a valuable sponsorship deal with Kellogg’s.
Phelps says he’s in a better state of mind now, and called the last few months, “a period of brutal self-examination.” Although he announced plans to retire after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, he subsequently came out of retirement and resumed training. He plans to swim in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Sobering Statistics About DUIs
A DUI charge can have ramifications far beyond the loss of a driver’s license, including major financial consequences, and in some cases jail time or unemployment. The consequences are more severe in the case of multiple DUIS, or when driving under the influence results in accident, injury or loss of life.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), offers frightening statistics about drunk driving in the United States. According to the organization, two million Americans have had more than three DUIs, and nearly half a million have received more than five. MADD also estimates that the average DUI offender has driven while under the influence 80 times or more before the first arrest, and that three-quarters of people convicted for drunk driving continue to drive after their license is suspended. Approximately one-third of crashes, arrests, injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers involve offenders who have received at least one prior DUI.
Only time will tell if Michael Phelps will complete his 18-month probation successfully and remain free of substance abuse (and DUIs) for the long term. Sometimes, a DUI is the wake-up call that prompts much-needed treatment and the first step on a journey to a happier, more satisfying life.
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