Wednesday, October 01, 2014

USA Swimming: Suspend Michael Phelps for a complete year and not allow him participate in the 2015 FINA World Championships!

Look at him: hasn't shaved in days, his hair is uncombed, and his eyes look dull, brown and lost.

In 2004 when Michael Phelps was 19-years-of-age he received his first DUI arrest. He acted contrite, look down a lot and issued the following statement:

"... Last week, I made a mistake. Getting in a car with anything to drink is wrong, dangerous and unacceptable. I’m 19 but was taught no matter how old you are, you should always take responsibility for your actions, which I will do. I’m extremely sorry for this. ..."

Phelps read a carefully parsed statement calling his arrest a mistake rather than the crime that it was. It was probably written by a handler so as to make this offense sound more like an "error" or a "goof" rather than a crime. Stating that his age was 19-years-old was also a subtle way of "dog whistling" to men who run the sport that his "mistake" should be blamed on Phelps being a "teenage kid" rather than an underage drinker.

A more accurate apology would have gone as follows:  "... I engaged in a criminal act by driving drunk. I am an alcoholic and I need help." Subsequently he may have received the therapy and rehab he needed. Instead he got a three-month suspension during swimming's "off season" and it appears he did not get any better.

The whole world knows by now that Phelps has been arrested for a second DUI — There are alcoholics in this world (8%-of-the-population from what I read) and then there are dumb-ass alcoholics. Any dumb-ass that drinks and drives and knows that they have an alcohol issue and won't do anything about it is the worst kind of alcoholic. Those are the ones that drunk drive often.

Has Phelps ever been thrown out of a bar at closing time? Has he ever fallen down drunk and injured himself? Few people know that answer but we all know this: Gambling, pot, and two drunk driving arrests are bullet points on his resumé.

Phelps does not belong on the USA Swimming's national team. He belongs in both rehab & therapy. He needs to work on himself, his reputation, his business relationships. After that he needs redeem himself with his fans and sponsors. Allowing Phelps to compete next year after a second token suspension will just validate what we all know, sports bodies are corrupt and will let Phelps circle the drain while they profit.

When looking at Phelps' brand predicament I suspect the executives at Speedo, Arena and TYR are glad they did not sign him. I bet the executives for his new suit line are feeling let down and disgusted that somebody so gifted and iconic may have just tossed both his and their livelihoods in the trash.

Michael, capitulate and accept the truth. Get help now!


Sarah Gjerstad said...

I disagree with the harshness of your recommendation, and ultimately, USA Swimming's action.

The law should take care of his punishment. It is certainly within USA Swimming's perogative to withdraw financial support, and it is likely his corporate sponsors find him a liability.

But how can an organization that functions as a monopoly deny him the opportunity to compete? Shouldn't anti-trust laws apply?

This is becoming common in the sports world.

Phelps broke the law, and will have to accept the consequences from the legal system, and sponsors. But after USA Swimming withdraws its support, Phelps is not a USAS employee or representative.

USAS should not "own" him. They should not have complete control over his ability to make a living by swimming.

He should be allowed to compete. Notice USAS does not cite the specific code of conduct item he violated? At the end of the code, there is a generic statement that basically functions as a catch all to exert "ownership".

Anonymous said...

Acertado comentario de Sarah. USA Swimming no tiene potestad para erigirse juez en este asunto, excede sus competencias. Además, parece que esos "jueces" han actuado con especial dureza por ser Phelps quien es: el mayor icono de la natación norteamericana y mundial... pero también un hombre, con sus defectos y sus desdichas. No tienen derecho a hacer leña del árbol caído. Ellos y tú, Tony, sois unos meapilas, jaja!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Sarah's comment. Most NGBs are not equipped to handle adjudication of matters like this, and they shouldn't be attempting to make it look like they can.

Tony Austin said...

As much as I adore Sarah, I do not agree.

Phelps signed a "morals" contract, so to speak, when he decided to become an Olympic candidate. A contract is a contract.

Not only that, I like the idea that Phelps is being treated as an American asset rather than "homeless schizophrenic" on the street that has a "legal right" to be a self medicating alcoholic despite the harm he can do to himself or others.

That's the wayI roll.

Sarah Gjerstad said...

If you sign a morals contract with your employer and they fire you for a DUI, so be it. But that employer cannot bar you from seeking employment in your career field. Why should sports be different.

I agree USAS is justified in revoking it's sponsorship. They can distance themselves from him.

But they run a monopoly. How can they justify denying him the right to earn a living?

That being said... Probably this was negotiated between Phelp's agent and USAS, and can probably be re-negotiated once he finishes treatment if he decides he wants (needs) to continue swimming.

Tony Austin said...

They barred him from representing the United States. USA Swimming is not really his employer. He is more like a contract worker and in his contract they have his agreement to veto him as a team member.

This is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to him, better than wining 8-gold medals as well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sarah as well.

Once again, USA Swimming released a BS statement regarding the World Championships. As soon as USA Swimming suspended Phelps, they had no choice but to pull him from Worlds. HONESTY has never been a priority for USA Swimming.

Athlete selection procedures for the 2015 FINA World Championships:

A. Available Swimmer. "Available Swimmer" shall mean a swimmer who, at the time of selection and through the Championships: (1) is a registered athlete member of USA Swimming in good standing.

B. Qualifying Competitions. "Qualifying Competitions" shall mean the 2014 Nationals (Aug. 6-10, 2014) and the Pan Pacific (Aug. 21-24).

L. Team. "Team" shall mean the 2015 World Championship Team announced on or before October 1, 2014.

There is an honor code for National team members, but this code is in effect DURING national/international team trips.

Phelps was not on a team trip when his DUI occurred. Members of USA Swimming do not sign contracts as a condition of membership.

Tony Austin said...

I believe you defeated your own argument.

In section "A" - (1) is a registered athlete member of USA Swimming in good standing. "

Mr. Phelps is currently not in good standing especially with 2-suspensions under his belt.


Anonymous said...

I didn't defeat my own argument, perhaps I didn't make myself clear.

I don't agree with a suspension at all. Once USA Swimming suspended Phelps, they had no choice but to pull him from Worlds because of section (A).

Instead of publically stating the facts, they issued a BS statement stating it was mutually agreed upon decision.

Anonymous said...

I did not defeat my own argument, perhaps I did not make myself clear.

I do not agree with a suspension for Phelps at all.

Once USA Swimming suspended Phelps, they had to drop him from Worlds according to Section (A).

Instead of stating the facts, USA Swimming chose to put out a Bull S*** statement.

**Not sure if earlier reply went through**

Sarah Gjerstad said...

Withholding a man's means of earning a living and withholding the means to rebuild his self-esteem is never the best thing.

Doing so without rationale or authority is bad for all swimmers.

Swimming in sanctioned swim meets is not representing the United States.

Tony Austin said...

I still remain unswayed. Even if there was a remote chance that this was a socially immoral decision (which I don't agree that USA Swimming' decision mad a socially immoral decision) this is the right decision for an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler to address.

Anonymous said...


Phelps would be representing the United States if he swam at Worlds.

Now, if he swam at World Masters, same venue as Worlds and the two meets overlap 5 days, he would not be representing the United States. World Masters do not allow participants to represent a country, only a team.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that USA Swimming is a monopoly (as Sarah pointed out). The only was to get to the Olympics is through USA Swimming. USA Swimming is also bound to a code of conduct through the USOC.

USA Swimming does not abide by said code nor does it abide by their own rules & regulations and code of conduct.

Equality is one of the most fundamental aspects of the USOC code and required by the Amateur Sports Act.

The problem is that Phelps has been signaled out because of who he is. Even the statement USA Swimming released made it clear that Phelps suspension did not set a precedent for others who receive a DUI "take appropriate action based on the individual case" and "his accountability especially due to his stature in the sport".

Unfortunately for Phelps, if he has any hopes of another Olympics he MUST bow down and accept punishment from an unethical, corrupt organization!

This is exactly why USA Swimming members are AFRAID to fight back, they will be retaliated against, and the Boards of Review are nothing more than Kangaroo Courts!

Sarah Gjerstad said...

I read about the World Swimming Championships. You are right that it is by country. I had assumed it was more of an open competition, based on the name. Instead, it is run like the Olympics. About 40% of the elite swimmers are ineligible to compete because each country is limited to 2 swimmers per event. So it's half elite competition and half invitational. Weird format.

Anonymous said...

USA Swimming did the right thing in banning him from attending FINA World Championships. And like it or not, being part of the US national team, he did earn a monthly stipend from USA Swimming, so he is losing that for the 6 months that he is essentially banned from the sport & participating in meets.

He knew all about these possible consequences when he signed the contract w/USA Swimming agreeing to abide by their rules & regulations. As for all of the "boo hoo, now he can't earn a living," give me a break. People don't swim fast forever. You need some other "thing" to do as a career when it's time to hang up your fins from professional competition.

Phelps going to rehab is the best decision he's made in a long time. He needs to grow up. He's had almost 12 years of practice at being an adult. It's about time that he started acting like an adult instead of a stupid punk.

Regarding the monopoly comment - that is like complaining that the US Olympic Committee is a monopoly and it isn't "fair" when athletes are banned from the sport for doping. Phelps broke the law and did so in a big way. In my mind, I excused his DUI incident & the pot smoking when he was a young adult as a stupid thing that kids do when they leave home for the first time...and he happened to get caught.

Now he is 29 years old and he's old enough to know better. All he had to do was to call a cab to drive him home and he could have avoided this whole situation. He made a very bad decision and now is being held responsible for his actions. That is what the real world is all about.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is how they could suspend him without going through the grievance process.

I agree that they can kick him off the national team, not pay him, etc.

But to suspend him from USA Swimming I thought he would have to have had due process (I believe that is required by the Ted Stevens amateur sports act, or its successor).

Tony Austin said...

I will presume that everything you mentioned in this comment is the de facto process.

I suspect that last thing he wanted to do is have this talked about in a confrontational manner for the next year-or-so and have it be ruthlessly followed by the press.

Anonymous said...

The comments here are making my head spin. Firstly, Sarah, please stop with the whining on behalf of Phelps not earning a living. Its just a sad and pathetic argument on behalf of the prodigy swimmer who has done nothing but make bank off of swimming for a decade.

Second, I am so not a fan of USAS or the way they conduct nearly anything, but that said, every member of USAS is required to adhere to the Code of Conduct set forth by USAS according to the rulebook. He did not adhere. 4 times. This last incident they just couldn't brush away under some obscure rug. In my opinion, he should be on the list of the "Banned for Life" but the swim gods, aka USA Swimming, would never do that to Phelps, their Hercules. They will just kinda throw him under the bus, for now. Then, over the next year we will see all sorts of "comeback" and feelgood stories about Phelps and all the good that has come out of this, and all the good that rehab did for him, and heck, he will become the poster child for the prodigy turned underdog turned superhero again. No Lindsey Lohan sad skidrow story for him! USAS will make bank on this, you watch.

Frankly, the guilty, like Phelps, who USAS rely on for money and notoriety, will never suffer the heavy hand from them. I loath this organization and all of the scandal they have covered up and all the nepotism they have gotten away with. Their "due process" is a kangaroo court (that really is something so go look it up) and USAS will never do anything but watch out for what is best for themselves no matter the cost.

I disagree that things will never change though. Things WOULD change if the members of the organization would stop bending over and just taking it.

Sarah Gjerstad said...

To angry anonymous,
I did not intend to come off as whiny for Phelps. To repeat part of one comment, I suspect his agent negotiated the punishment and it may be modified after treatment. I am concerned about USAS overstepping its role in the legal process. I doubt DUI offenders are routinely suspended; if so, the code of conduct would specify that. I would be an advocate for others, but Phelps is the only one with visibility.

As for your comment about Phelps as a "prodigy swimmer who has done nothing but make bank off of swimming for a decade.": The problem is not that Phelps makes money off swimming; the problem is that there are 100 or so swimmers that should also be able to earn millions off swimming.

I've posted on previous blogs about the folly of swimmers relying on the amateur organization to meet any needs for professional opportunities. That doesn't work in any other sport, so why would it work for swimming? I've recently attempted to start a professional tour but have not been able to get funding or publicity.

Anonymous said...

Was I angry? LOL - apologies...I guess I was. My patience wears very thin these days when it comes to USAS and also those who are gaining fame and making loads of money from swimming, right alongside USAS, and thus becoming an elite group within swimming that really don't have to play by the same rules as those who are not famous or making money, just love the sport and competition and keep going in spite of it.
I agree with you that this 6 month slap on the wrist (why does it say 1 year in this blog - did I miss something?) was definitely negotiated, not handed down as a punishment. Phelps clearly has a problem with substance use/abuse and just because he may not publicly appear as a fall down drunk or pothead, he is enough of an abuser that the odds have stacked against him when being randomly pulled over for drunk driving.
Now to what is current in the Code of Conduct. First, I will go back to the pot smoking incident a few years ago (the smoking "bong") - Phelps clearly violated the Code of Conduct Section 304.
The Bejing Games were Aug 8-24, 2008. The photo captured was taken at a house party in November 2008, but conveniently didn't hit news until Feb 2009. Phelps suspension from USAS was for 3 months starting February 5th, ending in enough time for Phelps to train for and be a part of Nationals and other Summer and World competitions. Code of Conduct 2008 rulebook 304.3.4(ii) is "iffy" as pot use (possession) in SC where he was, first offense, is a misdemeanor. We don't really know if cops tried to pursue an arrest or conviction of the misdemeanor offense of Phelps, and we will probably never know, but I find it very interesting the cops did pursue the homeowner and others where the party was at - 8 arrests were made, including the homeowner who wasn't even there, and in the case of Phelps (the one they actually have proof of drug use) their comment was "What's the point of that?" in regards to arresting him. How convenient. I bet Phelps never got invited to a party again though. I wouldn't let him into my house that's for sure.
304.3.4 Conviction of, imposition of a deferred sentence for, or any plea of guilty or no contest at any time, past or present, or the existence of any pending charges, for (i) any felony, (ii) any offense involving use, possession, distribution or intent to distribute illegal drugs or substances
304.3.15 Any other act, conduct or omission not provided for above, which is detrimental to the image or reputation of USA Swimming, a LSC or the sport of swimming.

Anonymous said...

Phelps put a black eye on USAS in 2009 - he personally lost endorsement deals and this all came right on the heels of the Bejing Olympics - his swim suit not even dry yet. I'd say 304.3.15 was a very clear violation, since people allow USAS to have such a "blanketing" Code of Conduct rule. I personally think this blanket rule is a cop-out and a way for USAS to just say they were using their discretion and interpretation of the rule, something they clearly do not allow parent/coach/athlete members to do. Is it a "rule" or a "guideline"? Ask Lucinda McRoberts - she will give you the 30,000 foot view.
You might claim that I am "reaching" here, but consider that several people are on the banned for life list for the same Code of Conduct violations, ones that have nothing to do with sexual misconduct. If you apply the rules to one, they must apply to all. In the perfect swimming world, that is how it SHOULD be, but the reality is far from that.
Phelps dodged a bullet as Cannabinoids are on the the WADA banned substances list in 2008, but only during "in-competition" times.
So, drug use aside, lets jump back to 2004 where he was arrested and PLEAD GUILTY (see 304.3.4(i)) for underage drunk driving. THAT IS A FELONY. He was sentenced to 18 months probation and no suspension or ban was handed down by USAS. I assume I don't need to repeat the two Codes of Conduct again from above. They were the same violations in the 2004 rulebooks too. But in that first violation, he dodged a bullet there too, being let off the hook pretty much (the original charges being reduced if he would do this blah-blah thing and that blah-blah thing and be a good boy and role model). He boo-hooed and acted all sorry and introspective, but clearly he learned nothing because he had another drinking incident on the heels of the pot smoking. That one got brushed away quickly. That was August 2009, he had been drinking but under the legal limit and got in an accident. He was cited only for an invalid driver's license. WHAT?
Now we have September 2014 - drunk nearly double the legal limit, weaving, swerving, crossing double lines.
I wonder what it will take for a serious penalty to be handed down to this loser? Sure he can swim, and I must admit I am always intrigued watching him, but he is a loser getting away with committing crimes because of who he is. When he crashes the next vehicle, or runs the next stop sign, or crossed the next set of double lines into oncoming traffic, will we only care when he hits head on into a family of 5? Will it matter then? Each time he did the above, he said he was sorry, that he learned his lesson and will be a better role model, and each time the crime committed worsens and the punishment from both the law and USAS governing body does not fit.

Anonymous said...

Back to USAS. I make no argument on their behalf that they should be making decisions to ban or suspend based on little or no evidence of Code of Conduct violations, and especially should not have the right to ban or suspend where no laws of the land are violated or legal investigations take place. They overstep there too. They have ruined reputations of people who did not break any laws and cover up or make go away the problems for those who do. If USAS members, all members, would stop allowing them to have this corrupted power, then things would change. Most people I know of though are afraid of their own reputations being ruined, their own clubs being retaliated against, their swimmers, parents, coaches, owners being retaliated against. We've all seen the stories of where its happened so its real, but just like every over-bloated, top-heavy governing body, they all will topple and be susceptible to restructure if the people push back. The sport of swimming deserves to be governed fairly and not governed with self-serving nepotism.
Also note, I am only posting as anonymous for now. Changes will happen, although not fast enough. Several "firsts" have taken place in recent USAS history and I anticipate there will be more.

Tony Austin said...

It says one year on the blog because that was the suggestion I had given well before the suspension was handed down.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying Tony.

I know my post was long, but did the other portion not make it through? No matter really, but there were some other good points in there.

Tony Austin said...

Do we know each other? You remind me of somebody I know and respect. - Tony

Anonymous said...

Tony - No we don't know each other, but we should one day. I've been watching your blog for a while. I respect your loudness when it comes to the problems within the swim culture and governance.