Why was Michael Phelps suspended for 6 months by USA swimming?

2018 Ryder Cup - Previews (Image via Getty)
2018 Ryder Cup - Previews (Image via Getty)

Despite Michael Phelps' legendary Olympian status and accomplishments, the swimmer has also faced a few rough patches in his career. Phelps was once suspended for six months by USA Swimming for violating the organization's code of conduct.

Michael Phelps was at the peak of his career in 2012. Having won four golds and two silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics, the American swimmer was on the verge of retiring from the sport. He once revealed that he had begun to find it physically tougher to stay on top of the sport as he was aging. However, Phelps scratched the thought and decided to compete again at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Phelps hit a major rough patch in his career in October 2014 when USA Swimming suspended the Olympic champion for six months. He was penalized for violating the organization's code of conduct as he was arrested for driving under the influence. Phelps was caught speeding while drunk. Following the incident, he entered a six-week treatment program.

The swimmer’s suspension lasted from October 2014 to April 2015. As part of the action, Phelps was forced to forfeit his funding from USA Swimming for six months. He withdrew from the 2015 world championship team and failed to compete in Kazan, Russia. The championship was a major event in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.


Following this, Michael Phelps publicly accepted the judgment and said that he was ’disappointed' with himself. The then 29-year-old treated the suspension like a break from the sport. Phelps entered treatment and reportedly embraced sobriety during that time.

"I recognize that this is not my first lapse in judgment, and I am extremely disappointed with myself. Swimming is a major part of my life, but right now I need to focus my attention on me as an individual, and do the necessary work to learn from this experience and make better decisions in the future."

Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time Michael Phelps was charged with a DUI-related offense. The swimmer was arrested for drunk driving back in 2004 as well. He was 19-years-old then. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

In 2009, Phelps was penalized again after photos of him with a marijuana pipe at a party surfaced. USA Swimming took strict action and suspended the Olympic swimmer for three months.

Michael Phelps' struggles with mental health

Michael Phelps made headlines when he opened up to the world about his mental health issues. The athlete, in 2020, revealed that he suffered from depression for a long time. He opened up to Outside The Lines about his mental health struggles and said that he had the darkest days of his life before the Rio Olympics.

He openly stated that he considered taking his own life:

"I mean, for a moment, I thought it was going to be the end of my life. Literally. Just because it was like, you know, probably just be better without me. People wouldn't have to deal with the BS that I give them or the crap I put them through."

The athlete revealed that he “was surrendering” and sought help. Phelps spent 45 days in a behavioral rehabilitation facility during that period. Over time, the Baltimore-native was able to overcome his struggles and appear at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Phelps took home five gold medals and one silver in the event, setting an example for healthy growth.

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Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann
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