Phelps 'sorry' after drink-driving arrest
IN A week when three Singapore swimmers have made headlines for the wrong reasons by allegedly returning to the Asian Games athletes' village in an inebriated state, another swimmer has been taken to task for drinking - and then driving.
This time, the swimmer is none other than Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time.
The American was arrested for drink driving early on Tuesday after speeding and then crossing the double-lane lines inside a Baltimore tunnel, United States police said.
Phelps - who retired after winning 18 Olympic titles but is now back with an eye on another run at the 2016 Games - later apologised, saying he was "deeply sorry" for his actions.
The 29-year-old was pulled over after his white Land Rover was clocked at 135kmh in a 72kmh zone at 1.40am in Baltimore's Fort McHenry Tunnel, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police said.
"He was unable to perform satisfactorily a series of standard field-sobriety tests," it said, while adding that he had also failed a breathalyser test.
However, it noted that the swimmer was cooperative throughout.
Phelps has been charged with driving under the influence, excessive speed and crossing double- lane lines.
The swimming champion quickly expressed remorse.
"I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility," he told his 1.6 million Twitter followers.
"I know these words may not mean much right now but I am deeply sorry to everyone I have let down."
USA Swimming, the national team's governing body, said: "The news regarding Michael Phelps and his actions are disappointing and unquestionably serious.
"We expect our athletes to conduct themselves responsibly in and out of the pool."
Dara Torres, a 12-time Olympic medallist who has been on several Olympic and national swim teams with Phelps, told Reuters in a telephone interview: "I was shocked at the news, to say the least.
"He was very fortunate that no one was hurt. He's a good guy. He does work for kids. He does charity work.
"He could have given the keys to someone. He could have called Uber, a taxi. He has the means to do stuff like that. I just don't understand it."
The US Olympic Committee said it was "surprised by today's news".
"We are disappointed on a number of fronts, but want to give Michael Phelps and USA Swimming an opportunity to comment before saying anything more," it added.
This drink-driving arrest is the second for Phelps, who has spent most of his life working feverishly in the pool but admits he likes to have a good time outside of practice and competition.
It remains to be seen how much water the swimmer's latest apology will hold with the authorities and sports officials.
Ten years ago, he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in rural Maryland. He was sentenced to 18 months' probation and fined US$250 for what he later described as an "isolated incident".
Back then, a contrite Phelps told the judge: "I recognise the seriousness of the mistake I made.
"It is wrong to drink when you're underage. It's wrong to drive when you've had anything to drink, no matter how old you are."
In 2009, British tabloids published a photo of Phelps smoking from a marijuana pipe during a party at the University of South Carolina.
"I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again," he said at the time.
Phelps retired from competitive swimming after the 2012 Olympics, but launched a comeback earlier this year. He made a dazzling return to international competition in August, picking up three golds at the Pan Pacific Championships.
His strong showing - under the guidance of his long-time coach Bob Bowman - bolstered hopes that he might compete for the US again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.