Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps walks out of a courthouse after pleading guilty to drunken driving, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Baltimore. He was sentenced to a year in prison for the Sept. 30 arrest, but the prison sentence is suspended. He must be on probation for a year and a half.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
BALTIMORE (AP) — Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps pleaded guilty to drunken driving on Friday, almost three months after he was arrested after leaving a Baltimore’s new Horseshoe Casino.
Phelps, 29, was arrested on Sept. 30. Documents show he was stopped for speeding and crossing the double yellow line while driving in the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Police say Phelps registered a .14 percent on a blood-alcohol test. The legal limit is .08 percent in Maryland.
He was sentenced to a year in prison, but the prison sentence is suspended. He must be on probation for a year and a half.
The officer who interviewed Phelps noted in his report that he pulled Phelps over for going 84 mph in a 45 mph zone. The officer wrote that he smelled alcohol in the car and on Phelps’ breath, and that the swimmer’s speech was “mush-mouthed” and his eyes were red and bloodshot.
It was not Phelps’ first brush with the law, or with drinking and driving. His first DUI arrest came in 2004 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
During this year’s arrest, when the officer asked the 18-time gold medalist to stand on one leg as part of a sobriety test, Phelps replied, “that’s not happening,” according to a police report. Phelps also appeared “disoriented and argumentative” when placed under arrest and asked to take the sobriety test again, this time by the side of the road. Ultimately though, Phelps did not re-attempt the test and was taken to the station for processing.
Afterward, an officer dropped Phelps off at his home in Baltimore, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.
Phelps’ original trial date was scheduled for Nov. 19. However, it was postponed for one month in Baltimore City District Court after Phelps announced that he was entering a six-week drug and alcohol treatment program. Phelps made the announcement on social media on Oct. 5.
“I’m going to take some time away to attend a program that will provide the help I need to better understand myself,” Phelps posted on Twitter. “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.”
Before the latest arrest, Phelps came out of retirement with his sights set on competing at a fifth Olympics in Rio.
In his 2004 case when he was 19, Phelps was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, fined $250 and required to deliver a presentation on alcohol awareness to students at three high schools. He was fresh from the Athens Olympics, where he won six gold medals. Phelps pleaded guilty to the charges, but as a young first-time offender he avoided conviction.
“I recognize the seriousness of this mistake,” he said at the time. “I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”
Another embarrassment for Phelps came in 2009, when a British tabloid newspaper published a photo of him using a marijuana pipe at a party in South Carolina. Afterward, Phelps was suspended from USA swimming for three months and one of his major sponsors, Kellogg Co., dropped him.
His most recent arrest has not yet had any impact on his sponsorships, which include Subway, Under Armour, Omega and Master Spas.