Phelps suspended over drink-driving stunt
SWIMMER Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, was suspended for six months by USA Swimming on Monday following his recent arrest on a drink-driving charge.
The American, who recently returned to top-level competition after a two-year retirement, will also not be allowed to represent the United States at the 2015 Fina World Swimming Championships in Russia in August.
The move is a blow as the meet was expected to provide a key measure of whether Phelps' comeback had him on course to challenge for more Olympic gold in 2016.
The punishment meted out, which includes forfeiture of the swimmer's funding from the federation for six months, is based on USA Swimming rules that prohibit conduct "detrimental to the image or reputation" of the organisation or the sport.
"Membership in USA Swimming, and particularly at the National Team level, includes a clear obligation to adhere to our Code of Conduct," said USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus.
"Should an infraction occur, it is our responsibility to take appropriate action based on the individual case.
"Michael's conduct was serious and required significant consequences."
Phelps was arrested last week after speeding and then crossing the double-lane lines in a Baltimore tunnel, police said, adding that he was clocked by radar at 135kmh in a 45kmh zone.
Documents also indicate that he registered 0.14 per cent on a breathalyser test after being pulled over in his 2014 Land Rover. The legal limit for intoxication in Maryland is 0.08.
The arrest on Sept 30 marked the second time the 29-year-old Baltimore native had been arrested for drink driving, the first being in 2004.
In the first case, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving while impaired in exchange for 18 months' probation. He had described it as an "isolated incident" then.
Phelps apologised for the latest incident and on Sunday revealed that he was checking himself into rehabilitation for six weeks in order to "better understand myself".
The 18-time Olympic champion can train with his club during his suspension, but is ineligible to participate in USA Swimming-sanctioned competitions until March 6.
Wielgus added: "Michael has publicly acknowledged the impact of his decisions, his accountability especially due to his stature in the sport, and the steps necessary for self-improvement. We endorse and...fully support his personal-development actions."
A spokesman for Octagon, the group that represents Phelps, said: "Michael accepts USA Swimming's sanctions. He has apologised for his actions and, as he shared yesterday, is taking steps to address them."
Dara Torres, a 12-time Olympic medallist, said she believes Phelps could still make the US squad for Rio 2016.
"I don't think the suspension is going to affect him physically, because they're not saying he can't train. He just can't compete," Torres, a former teammate of Phelps, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"He can still stay in shape and he knows what to expect and how to compete. It's not like he's starting something new."
Phelps' trial is scheduled for Nov 19.
This is not his first suspension by USA Swimming. In 2009, a photograph of him apparently smoking a marijuana pipe was published in a British tabloid and went viral.
USA Swimming banned him for three months over that incident.