Mark Spitz Allegedly Claims Michael Phelps Did Not Win 2008 100 Fly Olympic Gold

Michael Phelps at 2008 Olympics
Photo Courtesy: Jerry Lai - USA Today Sports

Mark Spitz, the man who held the record for most individual Olympic gold medals at a single competition before Michael Phelps in 2008, has called into question Phelps’ record during a press tour in China.

Speaking to Express Sports UK during a press tour that is part of the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai, China, Spitz allegedly said:

“I was sent an email posted by Omega that said he had lost the race. If they were the official time keeper why wasn’t that available moments after the race? I don’t believe he won the race but he’s still the greatest swimmer in the world, with or without that medal.”

Spitz allegedly continued to make statements questioning whether he could have had a greater career than Phelps under different circumstances.

“Statistically he’s the greatest Olympian of all time. He was in twice as many Olympics as I was – he was in four and I was in two. He has 18 gold medals and I have nine. He has two silvers, I have one. He has two bronzes, I have one. So he has doubled everything I did. In his first Olympics he didn’t get a medal at all, which means he’s done it in three Games.”

Spitz originally set the record with seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics before Phelps broke it with eight victories at the 2008 Beijing Games.  The 100-meter fly victory has always been the conversation of conspiracy theorists that Milorad Cavic won even though the Omega timing system recorded Phelps winning 50.58 to 50.59. That was Phelps’ seventh gold, which tied him with Spitz before the 400-meter medley relay delivered the eighth gold.

The swim was so close that some believe that Cavic may have “touched” first, but that Phelps was the one that had the most force to actually trigger the touchpad device first.

However, having someone of Spitz’s cache go public to doubt the win casts a different light on what remains one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

At Swimming World‘s request, Spitz’s agent Evan Morgenstein is currently checking on the validity of the quote with his client. However, due to the time difference in China, the confirmation may take some time. Swimming World is also requesting comment from representatives at USA Swimming and Omega.

Back in 2009, Omega General Manager Christophe Bertaud said in a video interview that Cavic did indeed touch the wall first, but did not indicate that meant Cavic was the winner. He goes on to say that Phelps’ force on the touchpad was the key to stopping the clock one hundredth of a second faster.

Spitz allegedly went on to talk about what he believes Phelps will do in his comeback, and his thoughts on Phelps’ career up until now.

“Rio will definitely be his last Olympics. I believe he will try and swim in the 100m butterfly, 100 and 200m freestyle, the medley and sprint relays.”

“It’s hard being Michael Phelps – like anyone who’s young, he has learnt from his mistakes and there’s a lot left in him that’s positive not just for swimming but for himself and his legacy.

“People must realise there’s a lot of pressure on him. I lived with the same issues he does – but I took a different route in weathering those storms.”

Swimming World caught up with Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps tonight to ask them about Spitz’s comments.  Here’s what they said:

Bowman: The only thing that makes swimming objective is the touchpad, and the touchpad is an electric circuit that when hit is shut off. It’s not a topic for me. I was there. I saw the whole thing.

Phelps: I have nothing to say to that. There’s no need to say anything to a comment about that.

67 comments

  1. avatar
    Andrew Franklin

    Jason Lezak did anchor the 400m free relay but it was not Phelps’ 8th gold in Beijing. The 400m medley relay was Phelps’ 8th gold.

  2. Dean Bell

    Sour grapes. Spit them out.

  3. Dean Bell

    Sour grapes. Spit them out. 8 to 7 leaves a nasty burn.

  4. Wladimir Flores

    Spitz ? Is not him 200 years old?

    • avatar
      MSquared

      And who taught you how to speak English? Master Yoda?

  5. Mustafa Agaoglu

    Phelps smoked the water in that race. I still watch it on youtube when i am indoor cycling in front of my computer.

  6. Devon Van Beek

    If he has the email, he should be able to provide it for all to see easily. I don’t think he will.

  7. John Gullotta

    Why would Omega timing send Mark Spitz an email about it and nobody else? Sounds fishy, thanks for posting an alleged story.

  8. Al Dodson

    The only time I’ve ever agreed with Mark Spitz

  9. Jon Parkhurst

    Please Mark post the email.

  10. avatar
    CmonSpitz

    Wouldn’t surprise me too much. Around 2008 Spitz said similarly sore-loserish things about how could have been as good.

    Sorry Spitz, but Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time, period, not even close.

    • avatar
      Eric Lahmy

      Why, because the 8 medals? Do you know how many medals should have won Phelps if he had swum in 1924 with one limitation: only in the events he swam in 2004?. One! The 800 meters relay. Because the 7 other events he won did not exist in 1924! Phelps has been the best swimmer of his time, Weissmuller the best of his time, Rose, Schollander, Spitz, Sanikov, Gross, Biondi, Popov, Thorpe the best of their times. The only meaning difference is: it more difficult to win now than before.

    • avatar
      Lany

      Everyone drugged enough would be as fast… – nothing great about Phelps – just state of art doping that evenutally when he was not important enougb for the US Team was “proven” and hence his suspension. His come back if there will be any with significant results will again be “helped” the same way… Just like so many US athletes he will also end up with all the consequences… but it has been his choice…

      • avatar
        jambalaya

        You’re a special kind of ignorant aren’t you?

  11. Sylvie Potvin

    Was Mark Spitz an official at the meet? If no, it’s not his call to make.

  12. Karen Masucci

    I’m loving Michael’s expression… Love watching him swim

  13. Jerry Rattigan

    Mark was a great swimmer at one time.. Kinda like he had good eyesight at one time. Kinda like he was relevant at one time. Kinda like touch pads really don’t care who is in the lane.

  14. Kristie Wisniewski

    It’s hard when you carry a legacy for so long and someone comes along and stomps all over it. Poor Spitz probably made about half as much money in endorsements as well.

  15. Scott Baker

    Hey Mark, maybe you and Greg LeMond can go cry in your beers together. You’re an ambassador of our sport, try to stay classy.

    • avatar
      WestBerkeleyFlats

      Greg LeMond was completely vindicated. Lance Armstrong continually cheated and defiantly lied about it.

  16. avatar
    Kate

    If Phelps set off the timekeeper at the touch first he won the race. It’s that simple. Nothing more to be said.

  17. avatar
    TDN

    Spitz should follow in Bruce Jenner’s footsteps…

  18. avatar
    MAC

    Mark Spitz was an amateur athlete, not a professional athlete. There was no financial support. There were no million dollar endorsements. Spitz was amazing in and out of the water and an outstanding role model for young athletes. Nothing else needs to be said.

  19. avatar
    kitty

    Even as a mediocre swimmer who only occasionlly competes for personal bests, I am taught to ‘attack the touchpad’. Its part of competing. Phelps did it a tad better then ÄŒavić. So it goes. Spit sounds envious of Phelps’s popularity.

  20. avatar
    Paul

    Every age-grouper knows that if you don’t hit the touch pad hard enough, it might not count. I’ll cut Spitz some slack, since Munich was possibly his first meet with touch pads. As for Cavic, no excuse. Even if Cavic did “touch first”, any touch pad idiosyncrasy is an integral part of the course, and it is the swimmer’s responsibility to account for it.

    • avatar
      BL

      When I swam at my first Nationals in Kansas (74, 75?), I distinctly remember watching Spitz watch Greg Jagenberg (sp?) attack Spitz’s world record in the 100 fly. Spitz was the ONLY one in the stadium who did NOT stand up for this race in which the record was missed by mere hundredths. Made a very lasting impression on a novice to Nationals. Sore, sore loser.

  21. Jim Rusnak

    Cavic should have won that race, but he did not. Please check out Sports Illustrated photographer Heinz Klutemeier’s frame-by-frame. It should dispel all myths, and it’s been out there for almost 7 years now: http://www.si.com/olympics/photos/2012/07/24-0phelps-frame-by-frame

    Further, I was working in the press pool at those Games. Representatives from FINA and Omega came to the press room to answer questions. Serbia filed a protest, and they went over the replay again and again. They said that day that there was absolutely no doubt Phelps won that race.

    They also ran an underwater slow-motion replay in the press room non-stop for hours. I watched it over and over. It was what it was — a close finish decided by .01 seconds. That’s it. No conspiracy. Phelps won.

    • avatar
      Peter

      No, he lost. Omega admitted he touched first but Phelps hit it stronger, so Phelps, who Omega sponsored at the time, got the victory. Serbia, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, matters little here and even less so Cavic himself who suddenly went on to train with Phelps. Maybe one day the truth will come out, it did for Lance Armstrong after all. No matter how hard you try to cover it up.

  22. avatar
    Don't call me mustache

    Who’s mark spitz? #phelpsFTW

  23. Sherif Aly

    Mohamedsherif Aly

  24. Niles Keeran

    That’s seven years ago, Spitz, and why contest it. 0.01 second is faster than batting you eye lashes. And you surely do not have a team member at Inidiana University that likes you to this day either…

    • avatar
      Dunc1952

      “And you surely do not have a team member at Inidiana University that likes you to this day either…”

      Niles — How can you manage to jump out there with such a hateful and baseless comment when you can’t even spell “Indiana.” As a team member at IU with Mark, I’m wondering who the heck you are? It is not admirable to take potshots at folks, especially when you have no basis for your overbroad, hateful and inaccurate position.

      In the future, please limit your cyberspace comments to subjects on which you have personal knowledge to support them.

  25. Tammy Lee

    Why would Omega supposedly send that email to Spitz? He’s no one official and has nothing to do with this. Why is this still even a topic?

  26. avatar
    Peter

    Cavic won that race fair and square, everyone with an ounce of integrity knows that. Phelps was sponsored by Omega and they needed him to win that one. You can check now if that’ll be legal today. A year later they said Cavic hit the pad first but Phelps hit it later but stronger, so he won, which has remained their official stance. This is not news but it’ll forever be defended by the Americans. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now someone will finally have the guts to admit it, like what happened with Lance Armstrong. How many years did it take to bring that man to justice and even then it was like pulling teeth. Phelps may have won all those medals but he’ll never be the greatest swimmer ever because he agreed to this farce. One stolen medal ruins it all. Or maybe better put, great swimmer, absolute zero of a human being.

    • avatar
      giants fan

      Are you kidding with this?

      • avatar
        Peter

        I will totally apologize if I’m wrong. So, did Omega admit that Cavic did in fact hit the touchpad first but not strong enough unlike Phelps who came in second but hit it stronger? Christophe Berthaud, General Manager, Omega Timing – “The video also shows it, Cavic touched the pad before Phelps, but he was sliding while Phelps was rushing on the pad.” – he admitted Cavic touched first, but their justification is that it was not strong enough, and Phelps who touched second, was (it’s a video even, so no talk about faked quotes).
        Was Omega Phelps’s sponsor at the time?
        That alone, and the way the affair was handled (and I still remember to this day even NY Times wrote about the shadiness of it and the lack of transparency) is enough to forever put a huge question mark over this race. There was no reason at the time not to give out two golds when it was clear Cavic touched first even if Omega claimed it didn’t register. Everything would have been solved. But they didn’t.

        Oh if you mean Lance Armstrong? Am I wrong there too?

  27. avatar
    Mike

    Only one thing to be aware – Omega was (is) Phelps official sponsor !

    Conflict of interest ….may be …

  28. Sally Slygh

    Phelps won that race because he kept his chin down. The other guy had his head up.. The head position matters because looking down gives your stroke more length

  29. Adrien Desmarais

    Sometimes an LBW in Cricket is not as it seems. Sometimes a forward pass in Rugby is seen differently by the referee , than the 45 000 fans. So sometimes we need to accept and move on. I’m sure the swimmer in mention Cavic ? Has !

  30. Linda Carriker Schlenker

    Spitz says he lived with the same pressure as Phelps, but it’s a different world today with live 24 hour news, social media, and paparazzi. Phelps has less privacy and any mistake is immediately public world wide.

  31. avatar
    Zoltan Levay

    The difference was strangely 1 hundredth of a second.. I have seen numerous close finishes during my career live and on TV.. The FINA regulation says that if two swimmers finish within 1 hundredth of a second two golden (or silver, bronz respectively..) will be awarded because the electronic time measuring does not accept 1000th of a second in swimming (i.e. in formula 1 this is mandatory)… That means that the time between Phelps and ÄŒavić was more than one hudredth of a second but less than two… i.e 1244.. 1455 or even 1999 of a one hundreth of a second… and this is what is very very suspicious… Trained eye of coaches, swimmers, swimming officials can differentiate this small fraction of time.. and this particular race was well within one hudredth of a second… which means a tigh…and 2 golden olympic medals…

    • avatar
      BL

      Can we just agree that Spitz is a sore loser and Phelps is a coddled swimmer who doesn’t know what else to do with his life? This happened 7 years ago. Let’s all move on.

  32. avatar
    easyspeed

    Childish and petty remark by Spitz. Just lost a lot of respect for him.