Olympian Michael Phelps has admitted to the press that he’s so shaken by the photo that was released of him smoking pot from a bong that he’s not sure he’ll compete in the next Olympics. The 23 year-old super swimmer says that he really needs to think things through and talk to his friends and family before he makes a decision:
Phelps, who said that he “clearly made a mistake” and that the past week has been both embarrassing and uncomfortable for him, spoke with The Baltimore Sun inside Meadowbrook Aquatic Center after finishing his daily workout. While he still has goals he wants to achieve in the sport, he said, he’s going to discuss it with his family and his coach, Bob Bowman.
“This is a decision of mine that I’m not going to make today and I’m not going to make tomorrow,” Phelps said. “It’s going to require a lot of time and energy and a lot of thinking for myself – but also talking to Bob and talking to my family and just deciding what I want to do.
“Yeah, there are still goals that I have in the pool, 100 percent. But I’m not going to let anything stand in my way. If I decide to walk away, I’ll decide to walk away on my own terms. If it’s now, if it’s four years, who knows. But it is something I need to think about and decide what I want to do.”
Bowman said that he doesn’t foresee Phelps retiring until after the 2012 London Olympics but that he understands how difficult it is for the 23-year-old to live up to the public’s expectations.
Phelps, who grew up in Rodgers Forge, said he realizes that his actions seem that much more foolish considering that this is his second public slip-up, after a drunken-driving arrest in 2004. He said it “definitely wasn’t easy” to tell his mother, Debbie, a principal at Windsor Mill Middle School, about the picture.
“Seeing my mom reminded me of how it was the day after I got my DUI, and I swore to myself I’d never do that again,” he said. “This is just a stupid thing of mine that I did, and I have to live with it.”
Phelps said he has spent the past few days with his mother and two sisters after the photo was published in Britain’s News of the World over the weekend. “We’ve been talking a lot,” he said. “I’ve been able to get back to my family. It’s part of my life I need back.”
When asked whether he regularly smoked marijuana, Phelps said he did not.
“This was stupid, and I know this won’t happen again,” he said. “It’s obviously bad judgment, and it’s something I’m not proud of at all. I will say that with the mistakes that I’ve made in my life, I’ve learned from them. Every one of them. And I’ve become a better person. That’s what I plan to do from here. It’s definitely not what I wanted, and it’s clearly not what my mom wanted.”
Phelps is training again now, something that helps him focus and block out a lot of the noise in his life. He says that he’s been harassed by paparazzi since the scandal broke, including having “guys yelling into megaphones outside my window at 7 o’clock in the morning” and “People knocking on the door.”
I feel bad for the guy, he’s young and incredibly talented in one area but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the minor temptations that a lot of kids his age indulge in, something that many other people have pointed out. If he wants to continue training he can go on to even greater achievements, and he’s come so far in his swimming career he shouldn’t let an incident like this derail his dream. He didn’t get to where he is today by letting setbacks get him down.
Michael Phelps is shown heading to a swimming complex in Baltimore with a new security guy on 2/3/09. Credit: Splash News. Header image is of Phelps promoting his book on 12/11/08. Credit: PRPhotos