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Olympic swimmer pleads guilty to DUI, looks to "brighter future"

Although American Michael Phelps’ swimming prowess and speed is legendary, the Olympic superstar couldn’t separate himself from a self-admitted problem of material magnitude, namely, alcohol addiction.

Phelps’ story is a tale of both multiple hard falls and seeming redemption, with the latter being on display last week following the swimmer’s ready acknowledgment in court of “a bad mistake,” coupled with his expressed hope that he now has “the tools to move past this.”

Many of our readers in North Carolina and elsewhere -- in fact, people all across the globe -- have some familiarity with Phelps’ past alcohol-related difficulties. He was first arrested back in 2004 as a 19-year-old for driving under the influence of alcohol. He sidestepped conviction on that occasion, being sentenced instead to probation.

Things turned out differently this past autumn, when, in September, Phelps was stopped by a police officer in Baltimore after allegedly being clocked driving nearly 40 miles per hour over the stated limit. The swimmer reportedly had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.14 percent.

As noted in one national media account chronicling Phelps’ day in court last Friday, the now 29-year-old “was contrite” while pleading guilty. Phelps has participated in regular therapy sessions since his arrest, is attending Alcohol Anonymous meetings, and also completed nearly seven weeks of in-house treatment at a facility that administers to persons with alcohol problems. He received a suspended one-year prison term and was placed on probation for a year and a half.

Although Phelps’ story is certainly cautionary, it is also hopeful, illustrating that people with admitted problems can get better and purposefully deal with the consequences with help from knowledgeable doctors, lawyers and other caring parties.

We likely have not heard the last of Michael Phelps. After all, the 2016 Olympics is fast approaching.

Source: The New York Times, “Michael Phelps pleads guilty and admits alcohol problem,” Associated Press, Dec. 19, 2014

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