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Phelps returns to the pool from suspension
(China Daily/Agencies)
Updated: 2009-05-07 15:23

BALTIMORE -- Michael Phelps' three-month suspension from competition is over and he marked the occasion like any other day: He woke up late and headed to the pool.

Phelps returns to the pool from suspension
Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps smiles during an interview before his work out, May 5, 2009 in Baltimore. [Agencies]

Phelps said he didn't even realize his suspension ended on Tuesday. Coach Bob Bowman couldn't resist making a joke, saying he planned to enter his star swimmer in a meet later that night.

"I had no idea," Phelps said of his ban, which was doled out by US Swimming after a picture surfaced in a London tabloid showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

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He'll return to competition next week at Charlotte, North Carolina. It will be his first time swimming competitively since winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

"I'm happy to be back in the water and be back in semi-shape," said Phelps, who's lost almost 20 pounds (nine kilograms) in the last two months. "I'm sort of getting back into racing shape and getting ready to race my first race since Beijing. We'll see how it goes.

"I'm happy to have some structure back in my life."

Phelps said he considered retiring from the sport after the picture surfaced. After all, he'd already broke Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven gold medals in one games and became the most successful Olympian ever with 14 golds.

But after writing down the pros and cons of resuming his career, Phelps decided to get back in the water. He's not concerned what the photo did to his image.

"It was a stupid mistake that I made," he said during an interview on the deck of the pool at Loyola College in his Baltimore hometown. "But I'll have what I've accomplished in and out of the pool for the rest of my life. I'm satisfied with what I've done and happy with what I've done."

Phelps said the whole experience has "shown me who my real friends are. It's also given me a lot of time to think. Pretty much since Beijing ended, I didn't really know what I wanted to do."

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