Michael Phelps may be extended an invitation to the World Swimming Championships by FINA, the sport’s international governing body.
Phelps was taken off the roster for the U.S. team in October as part of his punishment for a DUI arrest. Phelps said Wednesday that he accepted that decision, despite a March report that he may be reinstated by USA Swimming.
“We may give him another status because he’s the greatest athlete [in] history,” FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said, according to The Associated Press, adding that it would be “no problem for us.” “We can do whatever. He is the No. 1. He doesn’t need the accreditations.”
Phelps was told of Marculescu’s comments at the Pro Swim Series at Mesa, Ariz., later Thursday.
“Old Cornel,” Phelps joked to reporters after his first race since August (recap, video here). “I don’t even know. Cornel and I have known each other for a long time. It’s news to me. … I’m here to swim here right now. That’s what I’m focused on. I really don’t know what to expect. Bob and I’s plan has always been to prepare ourselves for [Summer] Nationals [in San Antonio the same time as the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August] because I wasn’t able to swim at the World Championships.”
On Wednesday, Phelps was most adamant that he did not want to take the spot of another U.S. swimmer on the World Championships team.
“By no way would I ever want to displace a member of that team,” Phelps said. “It is painful to think that I won’t have the chance to compete at Worlds based off the decision that was made last fall by USA Swimming.”
If USA Swimming reinstated Phelps for the 100m butterfly, it would knock Tim Phillips off the U.S. team. In Phelps’ other events, swimmers who were already on the U.S. team in different races stepped up to take his individual spots (Tyler Clary in the 200m individual medley and Ryan Lochte in the 100m freestyle).
Rules dictate that a nation may enter no more than two swimmers per race. But if FINA awards an extra place for Phelps at Worlds, it wouldn’t have to affect the U.S. team.
If Phelps is given a third U.S. spot in Worlds races, then it creates the possibility for a U.S. podium sweep in events. However, this is unlikely, given South African Chad le Clos is the reigning 100m fly World champion, Japan’s Kosuke Hagino beat Phelps and Lochte in the 200m IM at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and Australians Cameron McEvoy and James Magnussen took the 100m free at last two major international meets.
If Phelps was readded, he could also compete in U.S. relays, including mixed-gender relays, which are on the World Championships program for the first time.
“We don’t discuss with USA Swimming yet because they passed so many waves in the case of Phelps,” Marculescu said, according to the AP.