Against The Tide: Michael Phelps and Substance Abuse
Michael Phelps, 29, is the most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 22 medals. I8 of his medals are gold, double the number of the second highest record holder. He is a truly phenomenal swimmer. At the London Olympics in 2012 he won four gold medals and two silver medals making him the most successful athlete of the Games for the third Olympics in a row.
Michael Phelps was born on June 30, 1985 in Towson, MD. By age ten, Phelps held a national record for his age group and began to train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under Bob Bowman. He qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 15 becoming the youngest male to make a US Olympic swimming team in 68 years. In March, 2001, he became the youngest man ever to break the world record in the 200-meter butterfly event.
Phelps announced his retirement from swimming following the 2012 Olympics. In April 2014, he announced he would come out of retirement. In May he won the 100 meter butterfly event at the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte, NC.
Bob Bowman described Phelps as a “solitary man” with a “rigid focus” at the pool prior to a race, but afterward, “a man incredibly invested in the success of the people he cares about. He’s unbelievably kind-hearted,” recounting Phelps’s interaction with young children after practice.
During the 2008 Olympics, Phelps was questioned by the press as to whether perhaps his feats were ‘too good to be true’, a reference to unsupported rumors that Phelps might be taking performance enhancing drugs. In response, Phelps noted that he had signed up for Project Believe, a project by the United States Anti-Doping Agency in which U.S. Olympians can volunteer to be tested in excess of the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines. During the Games, Phelps passed all nine tests which were administered to him.
In November, 2004, at the age of 19, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, MD. He pled guilty to driving while impaired the following month and was granted probation before judgment (in Maryland, a judge may change the guilty charge and replace it with probation) and ordered to serve 18 months probation, fined $250 and obligated to speak to high school students about drinking and driving. He was also ordered to attend a meeting of MADD (mothers against drunk driving.) Later that month, questioned by Matt Lauer on the Today show, Phelps said it was an “isolated incident” and that he had “definitely let myself down and my family down, I think I let a lot of people in the country down.”
In September, 2014, Phelps was arrested on DUI and excessive speeding charges in Baltimore, MD; he was unable to pass a series of sobriety tests. In October, 2014 Phelps was suspended from all swimming competitions for six months due to his drunk driving arrest. He will not be chosen to represent the United States at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia in August. He will no longer receive his National Team funding.
His mother, Debbie, a middle school principal, could always be seen poolside cheering him on and she was interviewed on TV almost as much as Phelps himself. Phelps’s father, Michael Fred Phelps is a retired Maryland state trooper. The couple divorced in 1994 when Phelps was nine years old. His father remarried in 2000. Michael Phelps began his career at the age of seven, a time when most seven year olds are playing with their friends and doing the normal things that seven year old boys do. At the age of nine his parents divorced, at the age of eleven he was diagnosed with ADHD and this was followed by his father’s remarriage. Even without the other events, ADHD alone is a condition that can lead to abuse of alcohol and drugs, the condition causes much struggling in school and also affects normal social interaction.
On October 5, 2014, Phelps announced he is entering rehab stating “I am extremely disappointed with myself. I’m going to take some time away to attend a program that will provide the help I need to better understand myself. Swimming is a major part of my life but right now I need to focus my attention as an individual and do the necessary work to learn from this experience and make better decisions in the future.”
Acknowledging the problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Hopefully, rehab will provide the treatment and therapy Phelps needs and get him on the way to recovery and perhaps the resumption of his astounding career.
Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Veronica McNamara