(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Olympic gold medal swimming sensation, Michael Phelps, 19, was charged with drunken driving after disregarding a stop sign earlier this month. He has since publicly apologized for the erroneous behavior.
“I want to say that last week I made a mistake. I wanted to share my feelings and I know that getting in a car with anything to drink is wrong, dangerous and is unacceptable,” Phelps told The Associated Press.
A Baltimore County resident, Phelps was pulled over by the Maryland State Police just before midnight on Nov. 4, said police. A police spokesman, Maj. Greg Shipley, said to the Washington Post that the trooper “observed signs” that Phelps, who had two passengers in the car, might have been intoxicated at the wheel of his 2005 Land Rover. Shipley declined to say whether Phelps submitted to a blood alcohol test, citing a policy of not releasing such information.
Phelps, a six-time Olympic gold medalist, was one of the most celebrated U.S. athletes at the Summer Games in Athens. Phelps has since been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while impaired by alcohol, and violation of a license restriction and failure to obey a stop sign, police said. No court dates have been set.
“I’m 19, but was taught no matter how old you are, you should always take responsibility for your actions, which I will do. I’m extremely sorry for this….That’s all I can say right now,” Phelps said.
If convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, Phelps could receive a year in jail, a $1,000 fine and 12 points on his driver’s license for a first offense, reported The (Baltimore) Sun. He could be subject to a 60-day sentence and a $500 fine if convicted on a first offense on the charge of driving while impaired.
Phelps plans to enter the University of Michigan in January and swim for the university’s club team. Phelps cannot swim for Michigan’s NCAA swim team because he turned professional in 2001. However, he will still train under Bob Bowman, who he has said he already has his eye on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, reported the Post.
“It could have been tragic,” Bowman said of the incident. He said he was “so happy” that no one was hurt.
Phelps has lucrative contracts with Speedo, AT&T Wireless and Visa. He is also featured on Wheaties cereal boxes. Bowman said he feared the incident would tarnish the reputation as a champion swimmer and a team player that Phelps earned at the Olympics.
“The thing that was so good about Michael this summer was that was who he was; that wasn’t an act,” Bowman said to the Post. “And to have an error in judgment — even if it was isolated — that would cast a bad light on that, I just think is unfortunate.”
State police do not release details of drunken driving investigations, including whether a breath test was used, said Shipley.
“Some police departments feel differently, and they put the results out, but this has been a standing policy for us. We don’t do that.”
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