FINA could offer Phelps extra place to race at swim worlds

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(PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images) (PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images)
By Graham Dunbar, AP Sports

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Swimming's governing body wants to give Michael Phelps a special invitation to race at the world championships.

FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told The Associated Press on Thursday it would be "no problem for us" to offer Phelps an extra place.

The 18-time Olympic champion was suspended by USA Swimming from the Aug. 2-9 meet in Kazan, Russia, after a second drunken driving arrest last year.

Though the U.S. team has considered reinstating him, Phelps said Wednesday he did not want to displace a swimmer who earned selection in his absence.

However, the world body could yet find space for him at the biggest event ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"We may give him another status because he's the greatest athlete (in) history," Marculescu said. "We can do whatever. He is the No. 1. He doesn't need the accreditations."

He said he had not discussed Phelps' status with the U.S. team. Phelps said later that he was informed of Marculescu's comments after his morning swim Thursday at a meet in Arizona.

"I don't know what to expect in the future," he said. "I've got to thank Cornel for the support that he's given me over the years. He's always been a great help."

USA Swimming spokesman Scott Leightman said Thursday there was no change in Phelps' status for the world meet.

Phelps had said Wednesday before his first races after a six-month suspension that it would be "painful" to miss the worlds.

"By no means do I want this to be a distraction from the team," Phelps said then. "No way would I ever want to displace a member of that team."

Phelps qualified for the worlds in the 100-meter butterfly, 100 free and 200 individual medley before being suspended.

He's been planning to compete instead at U.S. nationals Aug. 4-8 in San Antonio, Texas.

"We still have our plan and we're sticking to that," said Bob Bowman, Phelps' longtime coach.

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AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Mesa, Arizona, contributed to this report.