Michael Phelps has rejoined the US drug-testing program, which is the strongest hint we have seen to date that the 22-time Olympic medalist may have his sights set on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The United States Anti-Doping Agency recently revealed that Phelps was drug-tested twice during the program’s third quarter, which stretched from July 1 to Sept. 30.
By submitting to the testing, Phelps has himself in position to be eligible for competition as early March of 2014. FINA, the world governing body for swimming, requires athletes to submit to drug tests for a nine-month span before competing in FINA events. Phelps could potentially compete in the 2014 US national championships.
More importantly, it now seems likely that Phelps is eyeing Rio. Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach, told USA Today Sports on Thursday that we should not consider the world record holder a lock for the 2016 Olympics just yet.
“It’s premature to say that,” Bowman said. “What we’re doing is kind of letting him have his options. He came back this fall and started to do some training with the group, mainly just to get in shape. He just felt like he was not fit. He wasn’t.
“He’s occasionally been training. He’s picked it up a little more. We were just thinking about it, and I said, ‘You know, you’re getting in pretty good shape, maybe you want to swim in a meet?’ He said, ‘Well, maybe at some point.’”
Bowman tried to downplay Phelps decision to rejoin the program by saying he didn’t “like how he felt” physically, but it would be hard to believe that there is not more to it than that. Phelps has repeatedly denied rumors that he intends to swim in Rio, though teammate Ryan Lochte insisted it is only a matter of time before the most decorated Olympian in history begins training again. Phelps is only 28. There are very few of us who believe he is actually retired — no matter how much he loves playing poker.