Michael Phelps can’t seem to break a disturbing pattern.
Record-breaking success in the pool.
Trouble on dry land.
The winningest athlete in Olympic history is facing DUI charges for the second time after being arrested early Tuesday in his hometown of Baltimore, where police said he was clocked going nearly 40 mph over the speed limit and was unable to perform a series of field sobriety tests. He also failed a Breathalyzer.
Online charging documents show that the charges include driving while impaired by alcohol, driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
The court records do not yet indicate a defense attorney or a court date.
The charges put a damper on Phelps’ comeback, which looked so promising just over a month ago when he won three golds and two silvers at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia.
“I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility,” Phelps said in a statement. “I know these words may not mean much right now but I am deeply sorry to everyone I have let down.”
The apology sounded like a repeat of the ones he made after a drunken-driving arrest a decade ago, as well as when a British tabloid published a photograph in 2009 that showed him using a marijuana pipe.
It’s too early to say if the 18-time gold medalist might face sanctions from USA Swimming, which took no action in 2004 but suspended Phelps from competition for three months over the pot picture, even though it didn’t lead to criminal charges.
“The news regarding Michael Phelps and his actions are disappointing and unquestionably serious,” the national governing body said in a statement. “We expect our athletes to conduct themselves responsibly in and out of the pool.”
The U.S. Olympic Committee had a similar reaction. CEO Scott Blackmun said the organization was “surprised” by Phelps’ arrest and “disappointed on a number of fronts.”
Phelps was charged with driving under the influence, excessive speed and crossing double lane lines in the Fort McHenry Tunnel on Interstate 95 in Baltimore, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.
If convicted on the DUI charge, he would face a maximum penalty of a year in jail, a $1,000 fine and the loss of his driver’s license for six months. Under Maryland law, the latest case isn’t considered a second offense because his first DUI conviction occurred more than five years ago.
Phelps could face the wrath of his sponsors, though there was no immediate word of any company planning to drop him, as Kellogg Co. did in 2009.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Don Rockwell, the CEO of Phelps’ new swimsuit sponsor, California-based Aqua Sphere. “For the most part, we’re supportive. We just need to wait and see what happens. This is not a deal-breaker for us, unless we find out something else that happened.”
Phelps also has deals with Subway, Under Armour, Omega and Master Spas, among others.
In early August, Phelps announced he was ending his long relationship with Speedo to sign the deal with Aqua Sphere. Just last week, according to Rockwell, company officials were in Baltimore working with Phelps on the sizing of his new suit, which he can begin wearing at meets starting Jan. 1.
First, he must deal with a more serious issue.
A Maryland Transportation Authority police officer was using radar about 1:40 a.m. when Phelps’ white 2014 Land Rover came through the tunnel at 84 mph in a 45-mph zone, the agency said in a statement.
The officer stopped Phelps just beyond the tunnel’s toll plaza.
“Mr. Phelps was identified as the driver by his driver’s license and appeared to be under the influence,” the statement said. “He was unable to perform satisfactorily a series of standard field sobriety tests.”
The statement said Phelps was cooperative during his arrest. He was taken to an authority station and later released.
After the London Olympics two years ago, Phelps followed through on his long-stated plan to retire, having won twice as many golds as anyone else and 22 medals overall.
Phelps returned to competition in April and set his sights on competing at the Rio Games, which would be his fifth Olympics.
The comeback is going well.
“We accomplished everything we wanted to,” he said after the Pan Pacs. “We were able to find out some of the things I need to improve on over the next year, and things I want to improve on.”
Phelps faces bigger issues outside the pool.