Michael Phelps may still technically be "retired" from competitive swimming, but if the legendary Olympian's latest move is any indication, he seems to be itching for a return.
Phelps' name recently re-entered into the international drug testing pool, which would allow the United States' and international governing bodies to subject him to random tests, per the The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. The 18-time gold-medal winner retired following the 2012 London Olympics and has been out of the pool ever since.
But competition gearing up for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, numerous rumors have cropped up indicating Phelps would return to the pool. For now, longtime coach Bob Bowman is staying coy, saying there are no "definite" plans for a comeback.
"Michael is just keeping his options open," Bowman told the Sun. "He has gotten back into some training, and I suggested that it might be a good idea to rejoin the testing pool. That way, he can compete should he ever get to a point where he was ready or interested to do so."
The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, has reported that Phelps has slowly been working himself back into shape, losing 15 pounds while regularly working out with United States teammates in Baltimore. He's expected to attend the Arena Grand Prix in Minneapolis this weekend, but told the AP he's refusing to make any commitment at this time.
"If I decide to keep going and swim again, then I'll compete," Phelps said. "If I don't, I guess I'll re-retire. Just don't compare me to Brett Favre."
Though news of Phelps' return to the program is just breaking, he and Bowman indicated he's actually been in the program since the second quarter of 2013. However, Phelps wasn't tested during that period so his name didn't show up and tip any suspicion. FINA requires an athlete to be in a drug testing program for nine months before they are eligible to compete.
Phelps, who has competed in each of the past three Summer Olympics, holds the all-time record with 22 medals. His 18 total golds are double that of his closest competitor, and his 11 individual gold medals also represent a record. Phelps added four gold medals and two silvers in London. He set the all-time record with eight gold medals in Beijing, breaking a record set by Mark Spitz.
Should Phelps announce his return to the pool, he should have no trouble getting into top form for qualifying. The next World Championships aren't until 2015, meaning he would have all of 2014 to work himself into form and see whether he can still compete at the top level. After working out with his contemporaries in Minneapolis, it seems Phelps is further away than he'd like.
"I just splashed around a little bit," Phelps said. "The guys are swimming laps around me. But at least I'm exercising and trying to get back into some respectable shape."
Phelps will be 31 if he makes it to Rio. Though that's generally considered a post-prime age for a swimmer, the advances in training and modern medicine have helped many swimmers, most notably Dara Torres, extend their careers beyond the normal bounds.
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