By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (August 1, 2016) — After competing in four Olympiads, Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. But after a damaging photo of Phelps emerged showing him smoking drugs through a bong, and two DUI arrests, his life hit bottom.
“I was a train wreck,” he told ESPN. “I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good. I felt lost.”
He retired from the sport after winning 18 gold medals, but underneath the surface were unresolved issues from his past. One of the biggest resulted from his parents’ divorce when Phelps was nine-years-old, and a “complicated” relationship with his father, Fred Phelps, a Maryland state trooper.
“I felt like he was abandoning me and I didn’t put any energy into something I thought was a dead-end street,” Phelps told ESPN.
Bob Bowman, Phelps’s coach, became a father figure, but even he became disillusioned by Phelps’s erratic behavior. “After the bong photo, Michael didn’t trust anybody, except for me, his mom, and maybe a couple other people. He was wary of everything,” Bowman said.
Following the London Olympics of 2012, Phelps retired as the most-decorated Olympian of all time. “I was finished; I wanted nothing to do with the sport. I was done,” he told ESPN.
But retirement brought a newfound freedom that was intoxicating at first. “I gained 30 pounds. I probably had too much fun. Whatever I wanted to do, I did. I was a little twerp,” he recounted.
Phelps approached Bowman about coming back for one last Olympics in Rio.
“No, I can’t go through this again,” Bowman told him.
Phelps protested. “No, I’ll do it the right way,” he assured his coach.
But on September 30, 2014, Phelps left the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, where he had been drinking heavily, and foolishly got behind the wheel. Police pulled him over for going 81 in a 55 zone.
A breathalyzer test revealed a blood alcohol level that was nearly twice the legal limit. He was charged with a DUI, his second in 10 years.
Coach Bowman thought it was the last straw — his third strike — and that was it.
For the next week Phelps languished in his Baltimore home curled up in his bedroom, with thoughts of suicide careening through his mind.
Photo captions: 1) Michael Phelps holding copy of “The Purpose Driven Life”. 2) Michael Phelps in the pool with his son, Boomer. (Courtesy of Michael Phelps). 3) Coach Bob Bowman. 3) Mark Ellis with Dan Wooding after taping another “Windows on the World” TV show.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is a Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), and also the founder of www.GodReports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions. Mark is also co-host with ANS founder, Dan Wooding, of “Windows on the World,” a weekly TV show broadcast on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv), that features the top stories of week on the ASSIST News Service.
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