Baltimore (USA): Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps looked to the future on Friday, including the Rio Olympics in 2016, after he dodged a stint in prison for drunk driving.
Michael Phelps prepares to swim during the Team USA squad training at the Gold Coast Aquatics Centre on August 20, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
The most decorated Olympian of all time struck a remorseful tone when he appeared in a Baltimore courtroom where he acknowledged the DUI charge against him.
As his defense lawyer pleaded for leniency, it emerged that the 29-year-old is attending Alcoholics Anonymous sessions after completing 45 days of intensive rehab at the Meadows addiction treatment center in Arizona.
"During my 45-day program, I was able to find out a lot about myself that I never knew," Phelps, in a dark suit and heavy-rimmed glasses, told Judge Nathan Braverman. He added: "I'm looking at a much brighter future than I have had in the past."
Phelps — still under a six-month suspension from competitive swimming — could have landed in prison for driving too fast after a few too many at Baltimore's chic Horseshoe casino in the early hours of September 30.
Free to go
Phelps will be free to go outside the United States to train and compete, the judge said, but wherever he is he must stick firmly to his alcohol addiction treatment.
"It sounds like you know what you need to do," Braverman told Phelps, adding that he hoped the case would in time become "a footnote to a legendary career."
Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence once before, when he was 19, in rural Maryland. His traffic record also included a 2006 speeding rap.
Friday's outcome clears the way for Phelps — whose 22 Olympic medals include 18 golds — to resume his return to top-notch competitive swimming.