Joyce Flashback: The Day Debbie Phelps (Michael’s Mom) Hung Up on Me When I Asked Her About Sexual Abuse in Swimming

Court Case on Fort Lauderdale’s Public Records on Alex Pussieldi Moves Forward
June 11, 2014
As Demands Multiply For Wielgus Resignation, Prosecution, Congress – Let’s See What USA Swimming Does About Alex Pussieldi and Dustin Perry
June 13, 2014

by Tim Joyce



With the focus today on public calls by sexual abuse victims for the resignation of USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus and for Congressional action, I remember October 1, 2012.

That was the day when, while working on a story for WBAL radio in Baltimore about past abuse by world-famous North Baltimore Aquatic Club owner Murray Stephens, I decided to put in a call to Debbie Phelps — mother of Michael Phelps.

(I didn’t name Stephens in the original story, but it has since become public knowledge that the story was about him. At least one of Stephens’ victims signed the recent petition that led to the withdrawal of Wielgus’s induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame — which already had honored Stephens.)

I called Debbie Phelps, a perennial cheering face in the stands in NBC’s Olympics coverage, at the middle school where she worked. (She is now head of the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools.) As the mother of two swimming girls at the Stephens club, in addition to the celebrated Michael, I thought Debbie might have something useful or constructive to say about the controversy.

When Mrs. Phelps got on the line, I explained my mission.

Her response was immediate.

She hung up the phone.


Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s coverage of the petition drive that forced the withdrawal of the Chuck Wielgus induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame are at “Chuck Wielgus Belongs in the Hall of Justice, Not the Hall of Fame,” 

The cover story in South Florida’s New Times, “An Underage Sex Scandal Leads to South Florida’s Swimming Hall of Fame,” is at

Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s ongoing investigation of the Alex Pussieldi cover-up by both local police and public officials in Florida, and USA Swimming, are at

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