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Michael Phelps: No More Drinking, at Least Until After Rio Olympics

Michael Phelps, stopped for drunk driving last fall, told the Associated Press that he has not tasted alcohol since his arrest, and may give it up forever.

In San Antonio for the U.S. Swimming Championships, Phelps, an 18-time gold-medal winner, said, “Before I even went to court, I said to myself that I’m not going to drink until after Rio [2016 Olympics] — if I ever drink again. That was a decision I made for myself. I’m being honest with myself. Going into 2008 and 2012, I didn’t do that. I didn’t say I was going to take a year off from drinking and not have a drink.”

Phelps’ DUI arrest barred him from the World Championships team, so he is precluded from competing in the World Championships and competes in San Antonio instead. Baltimore District Judge Nathan Braverman placed Phelps on 18-months probation last fall, and minced no words, telling the most decorated Olympian ever, “You don’t need a lecture from the court. If you haven’t gotten the message by now, or forget the message, the only option is jail.”

Phelps spent 45 days in an alcohol rehabilitation program in Arizona after his DUI, his second; the first occurred in 2004. Phelps’ attorney, Steve Allen, told Braverman that Phelps had joined Alcoholics Anonymous.

Phelps’ 2004 arrest also triggered probation rather than jail time; he stated, “I recognize the seriousness of this mistake. I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”

Last September, police caught Phelps racing 84 mph in a 45 mph zone, registering a blood-alcohol level of .14 percent. The legal limit in Maryland is .08 percent. After the 2014 DUI, he asserted, “I now have the tools to move past this. What I did was wrong, and I made a bad mistake. I’m looking forward to having a much brighter future than I had in the past.”

Phelps has had issues with other substances as well. In 2009 a photo emerged of him using a marijuana pipe. He later admitted that the photo was accurate and that he had engaged in “regrettable” behavior. The marijuana incident caused USA Swimming to suspend him for three months; Kellogg Co. stopped sponsoring him.

Phelps retired for a year after the 2012 Olympics but returned to swimming a year later. In 2014, at the Pan Pacific Games, he won three golds and two silvers.

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