After receiving wide-ranging testament to swimmer Michael Phelps' character, including a re-telling of how he gave up his spot in the 400-meter medley
relay final to allow Ian Crocker to win a gold medal at the Athens Olympics, a Maryland district court judge sentenced Phelps to 18 months' probation
in his drunken-driving case Wednesday.
The 19-year-old Phelps, who grew up about 100 miles northwest of here in suburban Baltimore, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol
Nov. 4. Phelps initially told the trooper he had nothing to drink, but, after faltering in roadside sobriety tests, apologized for lying and said, "I
was just scared because I have a lot to lose."
In a breathalyzer test, Phelps recorded a blood-alcohol level of 0.08, the legal threshold in Maryland for DUI. But prosecutors agreed to allow Phelps
to plead guilty Wednesday to the lesser charge of driving while impaired. If he fulfills the terms of his probation, which include abstaining from
alcohol, speaking at three local schools and attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving panel, his driving record will be clean. He also paid a $250
"I've learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life," Phelps told Judge Lloyd Whitehead.
David Elzey, a victim advocate for MADD who was among more than 80 people in the courtroom, called the probationary sentence "a gift" but added it's
routine for first-time offenders in Maryland.
Phelps will report monthly to a probation supervisor via phone. He starts classes next month at the University of Michigan, where Phelps' coach, Bob
Bowman, is the new men's swimming coach. Phelps, who won eight medals at the Athens Games, was greeted outside the courthouse by a gaggle of squealing
fans and autograph-seekers.
"I think it was just a mistake, and I'm sure he won't do it again," said 13-year-old Aaron Parsons, a Salisbury resident.