Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will return to competition for the first time since his highly-publicized suspension when the Charlotte Ultra Swim Meet starts Thursday at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center.
Phelps was suspended for three months by USA Swimming when pictures of the swimmer smoking pot turned up in a British tabloid. The event in Charlotte will be Phelps’ first competition since his last race in the Beijing Olympics.
Organizers are comparing the level of competition to that of a U.S. trial, and tickets are already sold out for Friday and Saturday’s evening sessions. Charlotte has hosted the Ultra Swim event for 25 years and is expected to do so for two more before USA Swimming determines if it will stay in the Queen City.
A total of 550 swimmers are competing over the course of the next several days. Other Olympic swimmers competing in the event include Ricky Berens, a Charlotte native who won a gold in Beijing with Phelps as part of a relay team.