Olympics: US swim star Michael Phelps hopes Rio Games can lift troubled sports world

Michael Phelps is seen during day two of the Arena Pro Swim Series at the YMCA of Central Florida Aquatic Center on March 4, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.
Michael Phelps is seen during day two of the Arena Pro Swim Series at the YMCA of Central Florida Aquatic Center on March 4, 2016, in Orlando, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

BALTIMORE (REUTERS) - American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, on Tuesday said he hopes this year's Rio Games can help heal a sports world hit by recent doping and corruption cases.

Phelps, who is hoping to add to his mind-boggling collection of 18 Olympic gold medals at the Aug 5-21 Games, feels the world's biggest multi-sports event has the potential to help people move on from the recent spate of negative headlines.

"The Olympic movement has always been uplifting. To have so many nations together in one small area competing for Olympic medals, it's an amazing experience," he told Reuters during an interview in Baltimore. "There's so much excitement around the Olympics that hopefully we can turn some of these negative stories into a positive with what's going to happen this coming summer."

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova's admission on Monday that she failed a drug test was the latest dark cloud to hit the world of sport following world soccer body Fifa removing its top leaders in a corruption scandal and allegations of widespread doping in Russian athletics.

"In a perfect world everybody would love to have clean sports all around. That's really all that needs to be said," said Phelps. "For us, we don't know if we're standing next to someone who is doping or is not doping. The only thing I know at the end of the day is that I can control what I do and who I become and that's all I worry about."

The American, who will be 31 during the Rio Games and has committed himself to one last run at Olympic glory after having announced his retirement at the 2012 London Olympics, was appearing at the Under Armour complex to promote his newest TV commercial for the sports apparel company.

Phelps, who said he had failed to give his best effort at the London Games due to sub-par preparation despite winning four gold and two silver medals in 2012, is determined to be at his best in Rio and has special motivation.

The swimmer, who has a record 22 Olympic medals in all, shrugged off concerns about the Zika virus and other health and pollution worries surrounding the Rio Games and said his wife planned to travel to Brazil with their newborn son, expected to be born in May, to watch him swim.

"We're not worried with travelling with our newborn," said Phelps. "That's something that we're both looking forward to. Being able to have our son watch the last time I ever compete is something that will be a fun story and a moment that I'll never forget."