Phelps hints at come­back, back in drug-test­ing cy­cle

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

MICHAEL PHELPS has re­joined the US drug-test­ing pro­gramme, the strong­est sig­nal yet that he’s plan­ning a come­back for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Phelps told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Thurs­day that “noth­ing is set in stone” though clearly he has en­joyed get­ting back into shape – he’s down about 7kg – and work­ing out with his for­mer team at the North Bal­ti­more Aquatic Club.

“If I de­cide to keep go­ing and swim again, then I’ll com­pete,” Phelps said from Min­neapo­lis, where he is at­tend­ing the Arena Grand Prix this weekend.

“If I don’t,” he added, let­ting out a big laugh, “I guess I’ll rere­tire. Just don’t com­pare me to Brett Favre (NFL quar­ter­back for the Green Bay Pack­ers, who made a come­back with the Vik­ings af­ter hav­ing re­tired from the sport).”

The US Anti-Dop­ing Agency (Usada) said Phelps was among the ath­letes who un­der­went dop­ing tests in the third quar­ter, the pe­riod end­ing Septem­ber 30. He was tested twice.

His for­mer coach and close friend, Bob Bow­man, said Phelps re- en­tered the pro­gramme near the end of the sec­ond quar­ter, but wasn’t tested and there­fore wasn’t listed that time in Usada’s quar­terly re­port. He would be el­i­gi­ble to com­pete again in March, ac­cord­ing to Bow­man.

Each week, Phelps said, he’s work­ing out for a cou­ple of days in the pool, a cou­ple of days in the weight room, and one or two days on his core train­ing.

“I just think he’s in a place where he’s feel­ing good about swim­ming,” Bow­man said. “If he chooses to com­pete, he’s got some time. I like hav­ing the abil­ity to do it. To be per­fectly hon­est, he’s not any­where near be­ing able to com­pete in a meet or any­thing like that. We’re just get­ting started on im­prov­ing his fit­ness. We’ll see where that goes.”

By sub­ject­ing him­self to drug test­ing, Phelps has given him­self plenty of time to go through an en­tire sea­son be­fore the next ma­jor meet, the 2015 World Cham­pi­onships in Rus­sia, an im­por­tant step­ping­stone to the Rio Games the fol­low­ing year.

Fina re­quires an ath­lete to be tested for at least nine months be­fore tak­ing part in sanc­tioned events.

“This may not go any­where,” Bow­man said. “We don’t have an event picked out or any­thing like that. There’s no grand scheme. It just sort of makes sense that he can make some choices if he wants to.”

Fur­ther stok­ing spec­u­la­tion about a come­back, Phelps was present at the meet in Min­neapo­lis and even did some laps in the div­ing well.

“I just splashed around a lit­tle bit,” he said. “The guys are swim­ming laps around me. But at least I’m ex­er­cis­ing and try­ing to get back into some re­spectable shape.”

Phelps at­tended the World Cham­pi­onships in Barcelona in July, and was happy about be­ing on hand for one of the more mun­dane events.

“I just wanted to come up here and see how a meet was,” he said. “This is kind of like a nor­mal meet. Barcelona was not a nor­mal meet. That’s a big boy meet. Just be­ing around this is ex­cit­ing for me. It re­ally has been a part of my life ever since I was a kid.”

Phelps is the most dec­o­rated ath­lete in Olympic his­tory. He cap­tured 18 gold medals and 22 medals over­all at the last three Olympiads, shat­ter­ing the pre­vi­ous marks. He is best known for break­ing Mark Spitz’s record for a sin­gle Olympics by win­ning eight gold medals in Bei­jing in 2008.

Phelps re­tired at 27 af­ter win­ning six more medals at last year’s Lon­don Olympics, adamant that he had no in­ten­tion of com­pet­ing again.

But he’s mov­ing close to a come­back.

“If I do re­ally start get­ting ex­cited and want­ing to do it, I can make that choice,” Phelps said. “If not, at least it’s some­thing we can say we were pre­pared for.”

Phelps doesn’t need the money, of course, hav­ing earned tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in en­dorse­ments dur­ing his ca­reer, and he re­mains a mar­ketable name, even in re­tire­ment. If he does come back, it will prob­a­bly be another case of an ath­lete who sim­ply missed the thrill of com­pe­ti­tion.

“There are a lot of things that re­ally ex­cite me… that get me mo­ti­vated,” he said. “But I swam for 20 years. That’s some­thing that’s go­ing to be very, very hard to top.” – Sapa-AP

GALLO IM­AGES

GOLDEN BOY: Michael Phelps knows what suc­cess tastes like, and he still wants more, hint­ing he might stage a come­back at the 2015 World Champs in Rus­sia.

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