How Should USA Swimming Punish Michael Phelps For DUI Arrest? (Poll of the Week)

Photo by Catherine Ladd

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 1. THE news of Michael Phelps’ DUI arrest early Tuesday morning in Baltimore has more than just the general swimming community talking. There are many, many questions that remain unanswered, and one of them regards the punishment Phelps should receive from USA Swimming, the national governing body that oversees competitive swimming in the United States in the same way the NFL governs professional football.

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And that is the question we’re posing to you in our new poll question. What type of punishment should USA Swimming give Michael Phelps? We’re giving you four options. Should USA Swimming give him no punishment for his DUI arrest? Should it only suspend him from competition? Should Phelps only lose the financial support he gets as a member of the national team? Or should he get a suspension from competition and lose his financial compensation from USA Swimming?

To vote in our Poll of the Week, go to, where you’ll see the poll on the right side of the page.

Before we end today’s segment, let’s bring you the results of our previous poll, which asked you to pick the team you believe will win the women’s NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships. This was a close result, one of the closest we’ve seen. With 35 percent of the vote, the California Golden Bears were picked to win. Their Bay Area rival, Stanford, came in second with 33 percent. And Georgia, the reigning champion, followed in third with 26 percent. If you were confident another school could win, we let you pick other, and 6 percent voted for that. I’m sure the coaches and swimmers on these teams hope the team title race isn’t that close, but from an outsider’s perspective, it certainly creates some excitement at the meet.


  1. avatar

    I do not think USA Swimming has any place to punish Michael of his actions, that is what the law is for of that state he was arrested in. If he arrived at a competition under the influence then maybe a punishment would be more appropriate coming from USA Swimming. Let’s leave him alone now, this is a personal thing he needs to deal with.

    • avatar

      I’ll bet you thought Ray Rice shouldn’t have been punished by the NFL for a “private matter”either, eh? Leaving aside, for the moment, that Phelps is a huge role model to many many young swimmers and other athletes and this action is a huge black mark to the sport of swimming, I’m going to assume (probably correctly) that since he gets funding from USA Swimming, he had to sign a contract, just like players do in the NFL, with some sort of morals or behavior clause in it. That gives USA Swimming every legal right to do whatever it is they deem fit within their legal power as per the contractual agreement. This sort of paradigm exists in every single professional sport.

      • avatar

        I believe that the contract Phelps, and others, have with USA Swimming for funding is just that, for funding. My guess is that if they tried to ban him from competition they could have a serious legal battle (assuming Phelps chose to go that route). This is different from the NFL that has a clause in players’ contracts for playing in the league at all, and different from USA Swimming National Team competition that deals specifically with actions while traveling with USA Swimming for that competition.

        Also, to say that this action “is a huge black mark to the sport of swimming” is insulting to everyone else involved in the sport. I am sorry but no matter how great of a swimmer Phelps is and has been, swimming is far, far, far bigger than he or any one person can ever be. Oh, and by mentioning it you did the opposite of “leaving [it] aside.”

    • avatar

      I f***g totally agree!!!!!

  2. avatar

    #6 of the National Teams Honor Code….National team members or staff will refrain from any illegal or inappropriate behavior that would detract from a positive image of the USA National Team or be detrimental to its performance objectives.
    Driving drunk is illegal.
    That image is detrimental to USA Swimmings imagine and to his performance.

  3. avatar

    USA Swimming should perhaps suspend MP but only if they also punish/suspend all USA Swimming staff, coaches and swimmers who also have DUIs.

  4. avatar

    I think he needs ordered treatment. He clearly has substance abuse problems, and they will get worse, not better. His “retirement” may have been full of alcohol and drugs and it was advised to him to come back to swimming to get his life back in order. Sadly that won’t work. You have to have a level of addictive personality to swim. It is ruthless, endless, and in itself, addicting. He needs professional help, sooner than later. No amount of punishment from competition or financial loss is going to affect him. He did this in 2009, and promised not to do it again. These are the words from a person with an addiction problem.

  5. avatar

    He should most certainly be punished, by the law, and especially by USA Swimming. He represents our country on an international stage as a member of the national team. He should be prescribed a consequence that reflects that.

  6. avatar
    Get him out of here...

    I think his sponsors are going to come down on him pretty hard, and I think USA Swimming needs to as well. They punished one Olympian $12,000 for going out to dinner with their parents after they won a gold medal in London and being late to curfew, even though they were just next to the pool and Olympic village at the mall. They punished that swimmer to “Make an example” of them. Phelps needs to be made an example of, now. Yes, they are adults. Yes, the law with “punish” him (even though that clearly will barely be a slap on the wrist. Disgusting.) With swimming being the only thing he has going for him, he needs to be stripped of it for awhile. He clearly needs a parental or adult figure in his life to help him grow up a little. He could have stripped someone else of their life, and everything happens for a reason. I hope he learns from this, and I hope USA Swimming absolutely pulls all of his Golden Goggle nominations. At least Male Athlete of the Year. Think he would even attend GG’s at this point anyway? He is still the greatest swimmer of all time, we will give him that. But as a person, he has a lot of growing up to do.

  7. avatar
    Dan Smith

    I believe USA Swimming should wait patiently for the Phelp’s case to be decided; then factor the outcome into its decision. Based on the rule cited above, doing nothing if he is found guilty is not an option for USA Swimming, if they wish to maintain any sense of legitimacy. Even if found not guilty, and we have no idea at this point what the outcome will be, USA Swimming could choose to do something such as a competition ban or cut off funding. The Maryland law said his previous DUI could not be factored in since it was more than five years ago. USA Swimming may not be bound by that. My opinion is this story has not seen the last few chapters written yet.

  8. avatar

    let the legal system, his family, his coach/team, sponsors handle this.

    There is no Collective Bargaining Agreement between athletes and USA Swimming, unlike professional football and other sports. He is not an employee either.

    He likely does not receive funding from USA Swimming so is not bound by that agreement/contract.

    The National Team Honor Code is an in competition Code– when the athlete is representing USA Swimming in competition. It is not 365/24/7.

    • avatar

      coachabc you are incorrect, USA Swimming DOES help fund the swimmers on the National Team. 1st they receive Health Insurance, which we all know is expensive, 2nd if they are the Top 12 in the World, they get a stipend each month over $1000, there are Grants that they can qualify for approx. $5000 once a year. Plus, their flights & some expensises are pd for during swim meets. Plus, they can go to the training center in CO. at any time. So yeah, I would say that USA Swimming helps fund their Athletes. This is probably nothing to M. Phelps but means the World to a poorer College kid who could use that help. By him returning and doing shorter distantes, events he probably wouldn’t swim anyway if he does make to the Olympics he is directly keeping other dedicated talented swimmers from getting those vital advantages. He has already had his time in the spot light, over and over. USA Swimming needs to focus on the younger swimmers & give them the chance that they deserve. Yes, MP needs to honor that Honor Code and Yes, he needs to abide by the Law.

      • avatar

        not quite–

        regarding insurance– has he activated coverage? This is not automatic.

        regarding the Grant Program– “Athletes who are receiving monthly assistance are not eligible to apply”. If he is receiving assistance as you say, he is not eligible.

        “Total net income as evidenced by the athlete’s 1099 and/or w-2 forms cannot exceed $50,000 for the previous year.” Is he even eligible?

        regarding monthly funding– ” . . . signed the Athlete Partnership Agreement (APA) . . . “. Has he signed this “opt-in Athlete Partnership Agreement”? There are additional requirements.

        all available Nat Team benefits have qualifying criteria and restrictions. And the swimmer must be a named member of the NT. “USA Swimming has revealed the 2013-2014 edition of the National Team today, and for the first time in over a decade, it will not include Michael Phelps.”

        It appears that none of these benefits were available during his comeback. Going forward on the NT he would still have restrictions and agreements.

      • avatar

        Wow, kind of scary how much of a Double standard there is. Listen, I hate that this happened but it did. I use to definend him when ever someone brought up the smoking pot issue, I said Let the guy enjoy him self and I think the person that took the picture was a creep. This is different, as driving a car impiared is like welding a loaded gun around, it becomes a 2 ton weapon that could kill himself & others. You said that the NT is not funded, they are. Maybe MP isn’t cause he already makes alot but he would still have to sign a Contract with USA ‘s Honor Code. I’m not saying completely eliminate him, just that something needs to be done or that Honor Code that they all sign, including the Jr. Nat Team, means nothing. Is that the message we want to send out there? And for God sake, someone on MP’s team please get him help with his Gambling. Good Luck to Michael, please remember you represent us all.

    • avatar

      I totally agree — let them handle it. Michael Phelps is a human being and will have to pay whatever consequences arise from his actions. As always, don’t be the person who throws stones, just because Phelps is famous. Back it up to reality – we are all human. To an earlier post, yes, Ray Rice should be handled the same way.

      I agree that Michael Phelps has a “personal code” that he should live up to as a role model, but he is not perfect and neither is anyone else. So do I, and I am in no way famous but, I am a mother and a grandmother — I have a personal code to live by as an example for my children. I certainly have made mistakes along the way!

      Having followed this young man’s career for years, I am sure that he is delivering more punishment to himself than anyone else’s opinions could possibly contribute.