Michael Phelps opened up about the “downward spiral” that led him to getting arrested for DUI in September 2014 and how rehab helped him reignite his passion for swimming as he now targets a fifth consecutive Olympics.
Talking to Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today Show on Wednesday, the most decorated Olympian in history, with 22 medals, including 18 gold, admitted he got to a point where he “didn’t want to see another day”.
Phelps also talked about how he had lost interest in the sport leading up to the London 2012 Games, where he still ended up winning four gold medals and two silver.
“Leading into London, I didn’t want anything to do with the sport. I think I was just over it. I think personally I had a lot of struggle getting through the four years after 2008. I just don’t think I really knew what I wanted to do,” Phelps told Lauer.
On his DUI arrest, he added: “I sent myself down a downward spiral. I think it was more of a sign than anything else. That I had to get something under control whatever it was. I look back at that night and everything happened for a reason. I believe so yes (that it was a cry for help).
“I think my mom was happy that I was alive because I think she saw the path that I was going down. I think a lot of people close to me saw it. And I was going fast, fast. Honestly at one point I felt like I didn’t want to see another day, I felt that it should be over.”
Phelps checked himself into rehab for 45 days, which he believes was a necessary step. Asked if he considers himself an alcoholic, the 30-year-old said: “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. I know I have probably moments where I have gone off the deep end when I shouldn’t. I would say binge more than anything else.
“I checked myself in because I think I was at a point in my life where something needed to change and I needed to figure things out.”
With the Rio Olympics just 100 days away, Phelps is currently training in Colorado Springs as he prepares for June’s Trials, where he hopes to make the US Olympic team and potentially become the oldest male swimming gold medallist.
He insists he is fully devoted to training.
“I want to be here, that’s the difference. I had no desire to work out before. I want to retire how I want to retire and I have a great opportunity to do that. I haven’t trained like this in a decade,” he explains.
Phelps and his fiancée Nicole are expecting their first child in a few weeks and he is looking forward to possibly having his son up in the stands watching him compete in Rio.
“It brings tears to my eyes just being able to think about it, just being able to have him there and to share that experience with him when he gets older is something I’m looking forward to. I’m pumped to be a dad,” Phelps said in a live Facebook chat on Tuesday.
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