Can a DUI Arrest Crush 2016 Olympic Dreams?


United States swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. The 29-year-old decided to come out of retirement with aspirations to swim in the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Phelps had already been dominating in competition and his chances of again standing atop the Olympic podium seemed high. However, due to recent events, Phelps may not be able to compete in the games at all.

In the early morning hours of September 30, 2014, Baltimore law enforcement officers stopped a 2014 Land Rover for allegedly traveling 84 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. Officers also reported the vehicle was drifting in and out of its lane and changing lanes erratically. When the officers approached the vehicle, they discovered the driver was Phelps, who stated he had just left a new casino in the area. According to police, Phelps appeared disoriented with bloodshot eyes, and officers claim they smelled alcohol.

According to reports, Phelps performed poorly on two field sobriety tests. When officers requested that he participate in a third test, Phelps refused and reportedly said, “That’s not happening.” Officers arrested Phelps and he now faces five charges, including driving under the influence (DUI) and excessive speeding. Charging documents showed his blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.14.

The Effects of his Second DUI Charge

Phelps previously pled guilty to DUI in 2005. However, his charges and penalties will not be increased as a multiple DUI offender. This is because Maryland has a “lookback period” of only five years, which means that only DUI convictions in the last five years will be considered for charging purposes. Colorado has a similar five-year lookback period for the purposes of second-time offenders.

Though Phelps will not necessarily receive a harsher sentence from the criminal courts, if convicted, Phelps may face harsher professional sanctions. USA Swimming oversees all American swimmers competing in sanctioned swimming competitions on the national and international level. Like other sports organizations, athletes participating in such competitions are expected to uphold a good reputation and stay out of criminal trouble. In 2005, USA Swimming did not impose any punishment on Phelps for his first DUI. However, the organization did suspend Phelps for three months in 2009 following the release of a photograph in which he appeared to be smoking marijuana.

Now, after the most recent DUI, some people are calling for a year-long suspension of Phelps and even banishment from the 2016 Olympic Games. USA Swimming director Chuck Wielgus issued a statement that they are considering all possible options and trying to look at the situation objectively, despite Phelps’s unquestionable contributions to the USA Swimming team.

The best way to avoid facing legal and professional sanctions for DUI is to avoid having a DUI conviction on your record in the first place. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI in the Denver, CO area, an experienced DUI defense attorney at the Tiftickjian Law Firm can assist you. Please call our office today to discuss your DUI case.

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