Michael Phelps named 9th top athlete by ESPN. But will not swim at World Champs in Russia

He may have just been awarded the 9th Best Athlete award of the last 20 years by ESPN in a controversial list that also includes drugs cheat Lance Armstrong (see top 20 below). But it looks like US swimming legend Michael Phelps will have to sit on the swimming naughty step a bit longer after his DUI (Drunk Under the Influence) conviction last September.

“He is not a member of the 2015 world championships team, per the mutual decision of his withdrawal from the team last October,” a spokesman for US Swimming confirmed on Wednesday. As a result he will not take part in the sport’s world championships in Russia or in the Pan-American Games in Toronto this year.

US Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus had opened the door to a change of mind last month, when he said that while Phelps’s readmission would be complicated but that “there are ways in which it could happen”.

“The team for Team USA at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto is set and he is not on that team,” the US Swimming spokesman confirmed.

Phelps, 29, who has won 22 Olympic gold medals in his career, including 8 in one Olympics (Beijing 2008) was suspended by US Swimming for six months after being arrested for drink-driving and speeding in September. The suspension will expire on Monday.

Phelps retired from swimming after the London 2012 Olympics, but returned to the sport a year ago with a view to competing in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile Australian swimming legend has uttered that dirty c word too: “comeback”. “I have this level of hesitation or trepidation about saying I’m having a big comeback,” the 34 year old told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Because I want the right to say, I’ll stop this now if I want to.”

Hackett, most famous for winning the Gold medals in the 1500m Freestyle in both the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics has – like compatriot Ian Thorpe who also famously attempted a comeback – endured a pretty tempestuous time in his private life. This include a custody battle over his two children and an addiction to the sleeping bill Stilnox that led to rehab in Arizona.

“At 34, six years out, and, yes, watching Ian Thorpe – one of the greatest swimmers of all time – not be able to do it, all those things make you think it’s impossible, so it doesn’t become a consideration,” Hackett told the Sydney Morning Herald. “And then, all of a sudden, you see yourself improve and your body holding up more and more and you actually think, ‘I’m physically okay’. I did all the testing. My bloods, my lung capacity … it was the same as when I competed before.”

This weekend Hackett will compete in the 200m and 400 Freestyle, attempting to make the Australian team heading to the FINA World Championships in Russia in July. We wish him well – it’s not going to be easy.

Top 20 list of athletes 1995-2015 according to ESPN: 

#20 – Sidney Crosby, hockey
#19 – Barry Bonds, baseball
#18 – Mia Hamm, soccer
#17 – Floyd Mayweather, Jr., boxing
#16 – Usain Bolt, athletics
#15 – Brett Favre, football
#14 – Tim Duncan, basketball
#13 – Lance Armstrong, cycling
#12 – Lionel Messi, soccer
#11 – Shaquille O’Neal, basketball
#10 – Derek Jeter, baseball
#9 – MICHAEL PHELPS, swimming
#8 – Kobe Bryant, basketball
#7 – Peyton Manning, football
#6 – Serena Williams, tennis
#5 – Roger Federer, tennis
#4 – Tom Brady, football
#3 – Tiger Woods, golf
#2 – LeBron James, basketball
#1 – Michael Jordan, basketball