Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

Phelps Handed Six-Month Ban

Michael Phelps has been handed a six month suspension from USA Swimming for his most recent Driving Under the Influence arrest. This means the 29 year-old swimming champion will be unable to compete in US Grand Prix meets in Minneapolis, Austin, and Orlando. He is expected to be able to return to top level US swimming competition at the Mesa, Arizona meet starting on April 15 2015.

While Phelps will certainly miss the top level competition, he is still free to train at his North Baltimore club. Phelps has already qualified for the world championships to be held in Russia, next August. He fully intends to compete at this meet, the largest competition leading up to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Michael Phelps. Photo: www.csmonitor.com

Michael Phelps. Photo: www.csmonitor.com

Michael Phelps has had a spotty history with the law. In 2004 he was arrested for driving a vehicle while intoxicated. In 2009 he was suspended for having being photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe (even though he was not formally charged).

Phelps took to social media to inform the world of his ban. “Swimming is a major part of my life, but right now I need to focus my attention on me as an individual, and do the necessary work to learn from this experience and make better decisions in the future,” he posted on Twitter.

He has also indicated his intention to embark upon a six-week in-patient rehabilitation program.

This is the harshest ever punishment imposed on Phelps. It will seriously damage his build up for the world championships next year and may even impact upon his fitness for the Rio de Janiro Olympics. USA Swimming cited a section of its 2014 Rule Book claiming Phelps had violated its Code of Conduct. “Michaels’s conduct was serious and required significant consequences,” said USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus. “We endorse and are here to fully support his personal development actions.”

Hackett in rehab?

hackett-pool

Grant Hackett has flown this week to America to seek treatment for a reputed addiction to prescription medication, following an intervention staged by family and friends.

Although it has not been confirmed, it is thought that Hackett’s treatment will attempt to break an addiction to sleeping medication Stilnox, which the Westpac executive labelled “evil” in 2012.

hackett-laWhen Hackett was met by a media pack in LA after landing, he denied that he would be going to rehab, instead saying that he would be taking time to rest and relax after a stressful period in his personal life.

Contrary to this denial, Hackett’s father has told the media that his son would be seeking treatment at a rehabilitation facility. Neville Hackett claimed that the swimmer is in “a little bit of denial” over his addiction.

Last week, Grant Hackett was pictured in a near-nude state in Melbourne Crowne casino – apparently searching for one his children in the building’s foyer. In the past, Hackett has endured a number of personal problems, including a difficult split in 2012 from wife Candice Alley after allegations of alcohol-fuelled violence and intimidation.

Hackett’s latest personal troubles closely follow a 60 Minutes interview with two-time Olympic medallist Scott Miller, which explored the swimmer’s own history of drug abuse and pimping.

Completing the trifecta, of course, is Ian Thorpe, who was recently admitted to a Sydney rehabilitation clinic after police confronted him a daze-like state near his parents’ home in southern Sydney.

This has caused some journalists to remark on the correlation between the intense training regimes these athletes work under, and the challenges they face outside the pool. The likes of Thorpe, Miller and Hackett undertake taxing training schedules at very young ages. Just like child stars of the entertainment world, they’re not given the same opportunities to try and fail, to embarrass ourselves without widespread criticism, and to simply grow up that we normal folk are.

Being lauded as a national hero, only to be largely forgotten by the press and the public (save for the occasional negative scandal) after retirement, is sure to be emotionally and mentally draining. Then there’s the “what next?” question. Apart from the option of a commentating/media career, there are few obvious avenues open to ex-sportspeople.

For years, Australia has prided itself on its prowess in the pool. But at what cost?

Bowing Out – A Sportsperson’s Retirement

retirement-plushenko

Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko was today forced to retire from the men’s singles program. The 31 year-old – one of the icons of the sport – complained of spinal pains earlier in the week, after helping Russia secure gold earlier in the team competition.

Plushenko’s exit from the men’s singles event was dramatic. He took to the rink to warm up, holding his lower back in visible pain. He attempted various jumps and spins, but struggled to pull them off, eventually liasing with his coaching team before announcing his withdrawal to the judges. Although he is yet to officialy retire, Plushenko was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying “this was not how I wanted to end my career”. “For now I need a very big rest, ” he said.

Plushenko’s injuries and plateauing scores represent a familiar tale when it comes to sport: an elite athlete, after years at the top of their pecking order, experiences diminishing returns. Their constant physical exertions take a toll, causing further problems and an eventual, expected retirement announcement.

The familiarity of this narrative, though, doesn’t make it any less painful. Ian Thorpe’s tumultous career of highs and lows is indicative of this. After winning five Olympic gold medals, Thorpe retired from swimming in 2006. Four years later, though, he announced a comeback geared at the 2012 London Olympics. The media salivated at this prospect: the wonder-kid reclaiming his place as Australia’s king of swimming.

However, the height of expectations seemingly proved too much; Thorpe failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. This process was the subject of an insightful 2012 ABC documentary. Thorpe re-retired in the middle of 2013. However, he has continued to attract media attention – most recently for being admitted to rehab after a ‘dazed and confused’ episode in his parents’ southern Sydney neighbourhood.

retirement-waughHappily, not all retirement stories are quite so fraught with difficulty and pain. Cricket, for example, is ripe with happy end-of-career stories. Steve Waugh, then serving as the captain of Australia’s cricket team, bowed out in 2003. He ended his run in front of a home crowd, and referenced the mixed emotions that are sure to come with ending such a successful career. Glenn McGrath also managed to finish with dignity, taking a wicket with the last ball of his career.

These case studies all serve as food for thought: is it better for athletes to retire relatively early, at the top of their game with their dignity well and truly intact? Or should they fight, on Lleyton Hewitt style, earning the ‘veteran’ tag and forging a stronger place in the minds of sports fans? It’s safe to assume that, in pondering such a decision, logic and emotion will have to battle it out. There are cautionary tales related to both avenues, with neither resolutely better than the other.