Does Michael Phelps just hold it?

You know you want to know: Do swimmers pee in the pool? The first in our new series of Olympics rude questions

Topics: 2012 Summer Olympics,

Does Michael Phelps just hold it?Michael Phelps (Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville)

On Monday, Missy Franklin competed in two Olympic races in 15 minutes. She barely had time to get from one pool to the next, let alone make a pit stop along the way.

So it made us wonder: Since toilet trips can be a hassle – especially for those immersed in water and sheathed in nylon, might letting loose in the pool just be easier, particularly for elite swimmers in the thick of training? What’s really going on underwater? More than you might want to know, it turns out.

“They don’t want to get out and miss the set,” said Bill, 28, a Canadian swimmer who raced at the Olympic Trials this year and spoke to us on the condition that we wouldn’t use his last name.

Bill spent his childhood swimming for club teams and raced for a Division I school in the U.S. before returning to Canada to train for national-level butterfly and freestyle events. Although he did not admit to peeing in the pool, he knows others who did – in secret, mostly.

“No one talked about it,” Bill said.

One longtime teammate revealed his covert ritual to Bill after years of swimming together.

“He would jump in the pool, swim one lap, pee and then continue with practice,” Bill said.

The decision to forgo a proper toilet is more complex than it might seem, however. Status and time of year can factor into a swimmer’s habit.

“If you’re a freshman, you’re scared, so you don’t want to get out of the pool,” Bill explained.

At the Olympics, the situation is different. By the time swimmers arrive at the games they’re well rested due to a process called tapering, in which training is decreased over several weeks. A quick break during practice or warmup at the Olympics is no big deal.

You Might Also Like

“It’s not like you’re going to break down muscle, so you have time to get out of the pool,” Bill said.

As for location, it doesn’t matter much. Swimmers don’t mind polluting pools that aren’t their own. On intense training trips out of town, Bill said swimmers still peed in the pool.

“Some people just get used to it,” he said.

But all of that urine can have serious repercussions. Mick Nelson, the facilities development director for USA Swimming, travels the country talking to coaches about the importance of pool cleanliness. Nelson said he thinks everyone is peeing in pools: Kids, competitive swimmers and adult exercisers.

“Coaches are self-conscious talking about it in front of swimmers,” Nelson said.

Air quality inside natatoriums relies on water quality. Once the pool water becomes contaminated, no ventilation system can save the air around it. The cost of a new water treatment system to improve air quality in an indoor pool can cost up to $30,000, according to Nelson.

“Sweat and urine have an ammonia base. It stops the chlorine from reacting with the water properly,” Nelson explained.

If one person urinates in the pool, it’s enough to have an effect on 10,000 gallons of water for 12 days. Since most pools are 100,000 gallons or more, it’s crucial for pools to enforce no-peeing rules.

“You only need 2 or 3 percent of people to ignore this rule and I’ve got a problem,” Nelson said.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>