BALTIMORE — Olympic champion Michael Phelps apologized Tuesday for his latest brush with the law, saying he was “deeply sorry to everyone I have let down” with an arrest for DUI.
Police charged the 18-time gold medalist after officers said he was speeding and failed field sobriety tests when pulled over in his native Baltimore early Tuesday.
This is the second time Phelps has been arrested on drunken-driving charges, the first coming in 2004 after he competed at the Athens Olympics. He also was photographed using a marijuana pipe after the 2008 Beijing Games, which resulted in a three-month suspension from USA Swimming.
The 29-year-old Phelps was charged with driving under the influence, excessive speed and crossing double lane lines in the Fort McHenry Tunnel on Interstate 95 in his native Baltimore, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.
“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.”
He is the winningest athlete in Olympic history, with twice as many gold medals as anyone else, and has 22 medals overall.
After the London Olympics two years ago, Phelps followed through on his long-stated plan to retire. But he returned to competition in April, signed a long-term sponsorship deal with a new swimsuit company, and has set his sights on competing at the 2016 Rio Games, which would be his fifth Olympics.
A Maryland Transportation Authority police officer was using radar about 1:40 a.m. when Phelps' white 2014 Land Rover came through 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 throughout the process. Phelps was arrested and taken to a transportation authority station; he was later released.
This is Phelps' second DUI charge in his home state. After the first in 2004 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he received 18 months' probation and a $250 fine. He also was required to deliver a presentation on alcohol awareness to students at three high schools.
At the time, Phelps told the judge in a packed courtroom: “I recognize the seriousness of this mistake. I've learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”
In 2009, a British tabloid published a photo of Phelps using a marijuana pipe in South Carolina a few months earlier. A sheriff said there wasn't evidence to charge Phelps with a crime, but he agreed to the suspension by USA Swimming. Sponsor Kellogg Co. dropped him almost immediately, while Subway stayed with him.
In the wake of the photo's release, Phelps said he “used bad judgment and it's a mistake I won't make again.”
The latest arrest tarnishes Phelps' comeback bid, which produced promising results this past summer even though he wasn't nearly as dominating as he was at the height of his career. He won eight gold medals in Beijing to break Mark Spitz's iconic Olympic record.
A month ago, Phelps won three golds and two silvers at his biggest meet of the year, the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia.
“For my first real big international meet back, we accomplished everything we wanted to,” he said. “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. “
With his performance, Phelps qualified for the world championships in Russia next summer, the biggest meet leading up to Rio.
“I'm extremely pleased,” his coach, Bob Bowman, said after Pan Pacs. “That looked like the real Michael there, so that was very good.”