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Olympic Swimming Legend Michael Phelps Comes Back Winning After Six Weeks in Alcohol Addiction Rehab
(Novus writes inspirational stories of people in the news who have overcome addiction. This is not to infer that these people are connected to Novus Medical Detox Center but simply to provide hope and encouragement to those fighting addiction.)
Over the past decade or so, everyone in the world with even a passing interest in Olympic sports has probably seen Michael Phelps win at least one of his 18 Olympic Gold Medals.
The powerful 30-year-old American swimming legend is the most decorated athlete in the world, winning more Olympic medals than any other athlete in history – in any sport.
In the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, Phelps won 22 medals in all – his 18 golds plus 3 silvers and a bronze. In other international competitions Phelps has amassed an additional 55 more medals.
In all, Phelps has won 61 gold, 13 silver and 3 bronze medals, spanning three Olympics, and several World and Pan Pacific championships.
The 6′ 4″, 195 lb. Olympic super-star with the big smile and the body of an Adonis has become an international celebrity. After winning a ton of metal in the 2004 Olympics while still a teenager, both the sports and the celebrity media perked up and paid special attention to the super-swimmer.
As Phelps’ winning streak continued year after year, he became one of those “sports celebrities” that the gossip pages keep on their must-watch lists, along with rock stars and movie stars.
When most other amateur athletes, including those on his swim teams, continued to enjoy some personal privacy out of the water, Phelps found himself being followed now and then by paparazzi.
For Phelps, private life began to be a lot less private.
The good, the bad and the ugly
If you’re not a regular reader of the sports or gossip pages, you may have missed some of the more personal news about Michael Phelps. It’s the kind of celebrity news – some good, some bad and some just plain ugly – that sets tongues wagging. And not just on the gossip pages but on the sports pages as well.
The good news, of course, is always about his phenomenal career winnings. And Phelps has also provided lots of fan gossip about his on-again, off-again romance with Nicole Johnson, the gorgeous dark-haired beauty queen who was Miss California in 2010. In fact, just a few months ago, the couple thrilled fans when they announced that they’re definitely back on and finally engaged to be married.
On the bad side, however, Phelps set the sports pages on fire and the celebrity page gossip tongues wagging last September, when he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
After being pulled over for being clocked at 84 mph in a 40 mph zone, Phelps failed the roadside sobriety tests and then blew a .14 blood alcohol level – nearly twice the legal limit.
Continuing from the bad towards the ugly, many fans were further shocked to learn that it was the swimmer’s second DUI. His first was 10 years ago, in late 2004, when he was just 19.
Back in 2004, Phelps had just won 6 golds and 2 bronzes at the Summer Olympics in Athens. Fans were still star-struck and eager to forgive, and even the most grizzled sports writers seemed ready to forgive America’s new Olympic hero and forget the whole affair. But when the September, 2014 DUI story broke, most repeated the old news about Phelps’ teenage DUI way back in 2004.
But it got even uglier, when some reports also dredged up Phelps’ alleged dalliance with psychoactive drugs. Back in January 2009, pictures appeared in the UK’s sleazy News of the World that showed Phelps taking a hit from a “bong” – a marijuana water pipe. The gossip pages jumped on that story at the time, some even spreading innuendo that the star athlete had serious drug and alcohol problems and was plagued by serious personal problems as well.
Eventually Phelps publicly admitted that the stories about the bong hit were true – he had been partying and had smoked some pot.
Although disappointed, fans and even sports writers were ready to forgive and forget.
But forgiving and forgetting is never an option for the organizations that oversee and rule competitive sports. Drinking and carousing when it involves breaking the law and arrests, and especially any drug use, are generally quite serious concerns with unavoidable consequences.
A typical middle-class American family
Michael Fred Phelps II was born June 30, 1985 in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood of Towson, Maryland, just north of Baltimore. His mom Debbie is a middle school principal and his dad, Michael Fred Phelps, is a retired Maryland state trooper.
The youngest of three kids, Michael comes by some of his athleticism naturally. His dad played football in high school and college, and was good enough for a tryout with the Washington Redskins of the National Football League.
Phelps’ parents divorced in 1994, and his father remarried in 2000. Olympic TV watchers were routinely treated to shots of Michael’s mom and sister in the stands cheering him on. In fact, some reports suggest that much of the credit for Phelps’ success belongs to his mom – a single mother who raised him and his sisters alone after her husband left. They say it was she who instilled the positive attitude and will to succeed that has carried Phelps through three Summer Olympics and his record winnings.
Phelps began swimming at the age of seven, and by the age of 10 he held a national record for his age group. He began serious training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under coach Bob Bowman, and more age group records followed. He was so big and fast that he qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 15 – the youngest male to make a U.S. Olympic swim team in 68 years. He didn’t win a medal, but he did make the finals and finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.
The next year, still 15, he broke the world record in the 200-meter butterfly at the World Championship Trials, again a youngest-ever male swimmer to set a world record. Then at the World Championships in Japan, he broke his own world record in the 200-meter butterfly and became a world champion for the first time.
Since then, Phelps has just been a swimming phenomenon, winning meet after meet.
Retiring and un-retiring and suspension . . .
Not long after taking the 2012 Summer Olympics by storm, Phelps announced his retirement. Saying he didn’t want to be involved in competitive swimming into his 30s, he began to spend more time pursuing private interests.
But boredom set in, he told the media in early 2014. He was back in training by April last year, with an eye on the U.S. Nationals and eventually, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Media interest was immediately rekindled – the super-star was back!
But then disaster struck – the September arrest for DUI. USA Swimming suspended Phelps from competition for six months, ending his plans to compete at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
. . . and a fantastically successful rehab
Phelps responded by announcing he would be entering rehab.
“I’m going to take some time away to attend a program that will provide the help I need to better understand myself,” he wrote on Twitter. “Swimming is a major part of my life, but right now I need to focus my attention on me as an individual.”
Phelps entered a rehab facility for a six-week treatment program which he said he hoped would help him “make better decisions in the future. Obviously, I’d like to be competing at Worlds, but this is what I have to do.”
He underwent the full 45 days of inpatient treatment, enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous, and decided that he needed to get drinking out of his life. “Before I even went to court, I said to myself that I’m not going to drink until after Rio – if I ever drink again,” he said. “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.”
He was back home from rehab in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family, and returned to training for competition almost immediately. Of course, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are still “on” for the big swimmer. He’s engaged to be married to a wonderful woman, and he’s showing every possibility of repeating his successes in earlier Olympics.
Phelps couldn’t go to the World’s in Kazan because of his 6-month suspension. Instead, on August 8th, the phenomenon clocked a better time at the U.S. Championships than the swimmer who won it at the World’s in Russia only hours earlier.
Not only that, the recently un-retired and rehabilitated Michael Phelps won the 2014 Golden Goggles award for Male Athlete of the Year, presented annually by the USA Swimming Foundation. We might as well mention that this makes his 5th win – more than any other swimmer in the past decade.
In other words, world swimmers, watch out. Because Michael Phelps is back, and he’s doing it again! Phelps watchers are on a high alert for another sweep in 2016 by the big American swimmer.
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