MICHAEL Phelps has announced he will take a break from swimming in order to confront his personal issues following his arrest for alleged drink driving last week.
The most successful Olympic athlete in history, with 18 gold medals, was arrested and charged in Baltimore, Maryland nearly 10 years after his first infraction for the same offence.
While Phelps, who retired from the sport in 2012 only to make his comeback this year, has given no indication he wants to quit again, he is putting his career on hold.
“The past few days have been extremely difficult,” he said in a statement on both his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“I recognize that this is not my first lapse in judgement, and I am extremely disappointed with myself. I’m going to take some time away to attend a program that will provide the help I need to better understand myself.
“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.”
The 29-year-old first came to prominence after winning six golds at the 2004 Olympics in Athens before setting a record for the number of gold medals at a Games by topping the podium eight times in Beijing four years later.
Four more golds at London 2012 followed and although he announced his intentions to never compete again, he returned to the pool earlier this year and had been seeking to add to his medal haul at the Rio Games in 2016.