Michael Phelps was on top of the world after his record-breaking performance at the 2008 Summer Olympics, but serious legal issues brought him back to earth hard and fast — and nearly caused him to take his life.
In an upcoming interview, Phelps reveals that after his two DUIs tarnished his public image, his mom feared he would kill himself — and so did he.
“I think my mom was happy that I was alive because I think she saw the sort of the path that I was going down,” he told Matt Lauer in the interview, set to air on the Today show on Wednesday, April 27.
“I think a lot of people close to me saw it. And I was going fast. Fast. Honestly, at one point I felt like I didn’t want to see another day.”
Phelps saw many personal controversies during his swimming career. His first DUI came in 2004, when he was sentenced to 18 months’ probation and ordered to speak to high school students about drinking and driving.
In 2009, a year after winning a record-breaking eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, a photo showing Phelps taking a hit off a bong was sold to tabloids, costing him an extremely lucrative contract with Kellogg’s as well as earning him a three-month suspension from USA Swimming. Phelps admitted the photo was real, calling his actions inappropriate.
Five years later, in 2014, Phelps faced another DUI charge. As a result, he was suspended from all swim competitions for six months, and was not allowed to compete at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships.
Soon after his second arrest, Phelps apologized on Twitter to his fans and announced his decision to head to rehab. His agency confirmed his plans, stating, “While this has been an extremely difficult time for him, he is encouraged that this comprehensive program will help him focus on all of his life experiences and identify areas of need for long-term personal growth and development. Michael takes this matter seriously and intends to share his learning experiences with others in the future.”
Phelps is back on track now, and most recently won three titles at the December 2015 Winter Nationals. He is expecting his first child with fiancée Nicole Johnson.