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Michael Phelps

by Alex Miller

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."

Michael Phelps, responding to photos
of his marijuana use,1 February 2009

Michael Phelps with BongThe sports world was rocked on January 31, 2009, when British tabloid paper News of the World released a photo of Olympic swimming phenom Michael Phelps apparently helping himself to a hit from a large red bong, or water pipe, presumably containing marijuana. Representatives of Phelps reportedly tired to kill the story, offering the News of the World "extraordinary incentives" not to publish the photo, to no avail. On the following day Phelps acknowledged the validity of the picture, and apologized for his "regrettable" and "inappropriate" behavior, which occurred at a private party on the University of South Carolina campus in November of 2008. Local law enforcement considered arresting Phelps and charging him with possession, but ultimately the photographic evidence and his side-stepping, non-specific "confession" was not considered sufficient to prosecute. On February 5, USA Swimming, which oversees professional and Olympic swim competitions, suspended Phelps for three months, and Kellogg’s cereals announced they would not renew his endorsement contract.

The 23-year-old Maryland native first rose to national prominence at the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, where he won 8 medals in swimming competitions, six gold and two bronze. On August 17, 2008, Phelps broke the record for most gold medals in a single Olympics when he won his eighth gold medal in Beijing, surpassing Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals from Munich in 1972. His 16 career medals tie a record held by Soviet athlete Alexander Dityatin, and fall just two short of the all-time record of 18, set by another Soviet, Larissa Latynina, who competed in three Olympics (although only 9 of her medals are gold). The five gold medals he won in 2008 in individual competitions (not including relays) tie a record set by speed skater Eric Heiden in 1980. He also holds seven world records in swimming.

Born in Baltimore, Phelps is the son of Fred Phelps, a Maryland state trooper, and Debbie Phelps, a middle school principal. A 2003 Towson High School graduate, Phelps went on to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Diagnosed with ADHD as a toddler, Phelps began swimming at age 7 as an outlet for his excess energy; at 10 years he set a national swimming record for his age group. He first competed in the 2000 Olympics at age 15, the youngest male member of the US swim team in seven decades. He won no medals in Sydney, but five months later became the youngest man ever to break a world record when he took the 200 meter butterfly at the World Championships in Japan, with a time of 1 minute, 56.50 seconds.

On 14 August 2004 at the summer Olympics in Athens, Phelps won his first gold medal, in the 400 meter individual medley, with yet another world record time. Five more gold medals would follow, and two bronze. Endorsements also ensued: Speedo, Kellogg, Visa, AT&T, Omega and PowerBar, for an estimated $5 million annually. His endorsement as the face of automotive manufacturer Mazda in China is in doubt following the release of the bong photo, and he has been dropped by Kellogg’s. In a bizarre preview of this incident, in November 2004, just three months after his premier Olympic victory and also on a break from training, Phelps was arrested for DUI in Salisbury, Maryland. He received a $250 fine and 18 months probation, and performed community service by appearing at high schools in conjunction with MADD, to speak about drinking and driving. When questioned later by Today’s Matt Lauer, Phelps described the incident as "isolated," opining that he "definitely let myself down and my family down... I think I let a lot of people in the country down."

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Phelps won every race in which he competed, for a total of 8 gold medals. He alone won more gold medals in that Olympics than all but four countries worldwide. In December 2008 he authored No Limits: The Will to Succeed.

Born 30 June 1985, Phelps has a birth chart riddled with galactic points and intriguing asteroid placements. The Sun at 8 Cancer is exactly conjoined a Quasar, a Deep Space anomaly noted for its ability to bring notoriety, success and achievement. The Sun/Quasar native easily stands out in a crowd, receiving accolades, reward and recognition for his efforts. The Sun is conjunct Mars at 14 Cancer, identifying Phelps as an athlete, and its square to the Black Hole at 13 Libra indicates the vast amounts of energy he channels into his training, and also promotes the setting of world records, a Black Hole function, in altering the status quo and establishing a new reality.

Astonishingly, there is an asteroid "Merman" (the male equivalent of "mermaid") which at 7 Cancer closely conjoins his Sun, defining the sports venue which would make him famous. The asteroid "Phelps" (discovered in 1999 and not named for the swimmer) at 4 Cancer also conjoins the Sun and is itself exactly conjunct a Black Hole, indicating the dual nature of Phelps’ personality, and the energy others channel into his image. Asteroid "Apophis" conjoined the Sun from 13 Cancer could indicate a tendency to self- destruction or destruction of image, such as may be revealed with the DUI and bong photo incidents.

Substance abuse is a common manifestation of Neptune linked to the Sun, and Phelps’ natal Neptune at 2 Capricorn opposes his Sun, also squaring the supermassive Black Hole at the center of Galaxy M-87 at 1 Libra, creating a pull toward escapism via alcohol and drugs which may be difficult to resist. Neptune’s rulership of the sea is a secondary indicator of Phelps’ success in the water.

Additionally, Mercury at 1 Leo, Venus at 24 Taurus, Jupiter at 15 Aquarius, Uranus at 15 Sagittarius, and Pluto at 1 Scorpio all conjoin or square Black Holes, indicating a dramatic, larger-than-life persona and life experience. In particular, both Venus and Jupiter in tandem with Black Hole energies indicate a potential for accruing vast amounts of wealth, as seen in his lucrative endorsements. Venus is also exactly conjunct asteroid "Olympia," a stand-in for the Olympic games, as well as asteroid "Esther," a nod to famed swimmer/actress Esther Williams, at 20 Taurus. Both asteroids also conjoin the North Node, Phelps’ future and full development or highest potential, at 17 Taurus.

Jupiter and Uranus form a tight Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with natal Mars at 14 Cancer, suggesting a fated or predestined quality to Phelps’ athletic efforts. Exactly opposed this Mars is asteroid "Waterman" at 14 Capricorn, and asteroid "Olympiada," specifically named for the games, falls at 24 Sagittarius, exactly inconjunct natal Venus/Olympia, and conjoined the newsy, media-related Pulsar at 24 Sagittarius, making him and his story attractive fodder for the press. Olympiada also conjoins the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius, indicative of someone who has the potential to make a worldwide impression or contribute on a global scale, in this case, via the vehicle of the Olympics.

Additional asteroids are significant only in hindsight, following the events of the past year. There is an exact opposition from asteroid "Achilles" at 16 Aries to asteroid "Photographica" at 16 Libra, suggesting a potential weakness, or Achilles heel, coming in the form of a photo. Asteroid "Peking" (the archaic spelling of Beijing), representing Phelps’ chief record-setting venue, at 24 Scorpio is exactly opposed Venus/Olympia and conjoins career-ruling Saturn at 21 Scorpio. An opposition from asteroid "Poseidon," Neptune’s sea-ruling Greek precursor, at 26 Libra to asteroid "China" at 26 Aries (on a Black Hole) also indicates the importance of swimming and these Olympic games to Phelps, and the formation of a T-Square by the inclusion of asteroids "Icarus" at 27 Capricorn and "Nemesis" at 23 Capricorn suggests that rash actions may contribute to an undoing of what China/Poseidon has wrought.

Phelps with gold medalsWhen Phelps won his record-setting eighth gold medal on August 17, 2008, the Sun at 24 Leo was exactly squared natal Venus/Olympus and natal Peking, forming a T-Square, and also exactly trine natal Olympiada at 24 Sagittarius. Asteroid China at 11 Cancer conjoined both the natal Sun at 8 Cancer and natal Mars at 14 Cancer, which was also opposed by transit Jupiter at 13 Capricorn and trined by asteroid Merman at 12 Scorpio. Asteroids Photographica and Olympiada at 23 and 27 Libra opposed natal asteroid China at 26 Aries, and provided that amazing Sports Illustrated cover photo of Phelps, his torso covered with all eight gold medals.

Asteroid Phelps at 19 Virgo exactly squared a Black Hole at 19 Sagittarius, indicative of the record-setting performance, while asteroid Waterman at 8 Taurus exactly conjoined an excitement-generating Maser and was exactly sextile Phelps’ natal Sun at 8 Cancer, reiterating the natal Quasar conjunction promoting highly visible achievement. Transit Mars at 28 Virgo exactly opposed the Black Hole at 28 Pisces and formed a T-Square with transit Pluto, itself exactly conjunct the Pulsar at 28 Sagittarius, making for big news and record-breaking events in the sports world.

Transits for the release of the bong photo on January 31, 2009 are also significant. Primary among these is the exact transit conjunction of muckraking scandal-and-secret-revealer Pluto with natal drug-and-photography-ruling Neptune at 2 Capricorn, both broadly opposed the 8 Cancer natal Sun and more closely opposed the 4 Cancer natal asteroid Phelps. Amazingly, asteroids Olympia, Olympiada, and Photographica are all conjoined at 19 Capricorn, exactly conjunct a Black Hole and still within opposition of Phelps’ natal Mars at 14 Cancer, providing the complete reversal (Black Hole) in the image (Photographica) of the Olympian (Olympiada) athlete (Mars). These square the natal Achilles/Photographica opposition at 16 Aries/Libra, creating a T-Square which is further reinforced by the presence of asteroid "Pandora" at 16 Capricorn, within orb of the asteroid cluster and exactly squared the natal polarity, and indicating the problematic nature of the disclosure.

Asteroid Apophis the destroyer, transit Mars (ruling athletes) and transit Mercury (ruling newspapers) at 27, 26 and 21 Capricorn respectively, are teaming up on the natal Icarus/Nemesis (rash self-undoing) conjunction at 27 and 23 Capricorn, with Apophis, Mars and Icarus all conjunct the newsworthy, media-focused Pulsar at 27 Capricorn. Transit Nemesis (self-undoing) and Achilles (inherent weak spot) at 17 and 22 Pisces cluster about transit Uranus (the shocking revelation) at 20 Pisces, with Uranus also exactly opposed transit Saturn (career) at 20 Virgo. Asteroid Phelps at 28 Scorpio is exactly conjunct a Quasar, revealing this alternate image of the athlete in a highly visible manner, unavoidable and prominent. Asteroid Merman at 0 Aquarius tightly opposes natal Mercury at 1 Leo, providing news (Mercury) about the swimmer (Merman), and is conjoined by transit Jupiter (publication, notoriety) at 6 Aquarius.

This is probably not a career-stopper for Phelps, who will likely compete in at least one more Olympics, in 2012, when he will be 27, and where his career medal count is likely to top the current leader’s, providing yet one more record for the swimming phenomenon. But the pattern of triumph followed by rash action, as in the 2004 DUI and the 2008 bong photo, is a disturbing one. Hopefully this is something Phelps will weather, and a pattern he will grow out of, before fulfilling the negative promise of the natal Sun/Apophis conjunction.

Alex Miller, photoAlex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.

His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at