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Phelps Rio comeback gathers pace

ESPN staff
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Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with 22 medals © Getty Images
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Michael Phelps has dropped his strongest hint yet that he will return for the 2016 Rio Olympics after rejoining the U.S. drug-testing programme.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency have revealed that Phelps underwent two doping tests earlier this year, up to the period ending September 30.

Last month Phelps' longtime coach Bob Bowman confirmed the 22-time Olympic medallist had resumed training. Bowman did however insist Phelps was just trying to stay in shape.

But by subjecting himself to drug testing, Phelps will be eligible to compete again by next summer if he wishes. Swimming's world governing body requires athletes to be tested for at least nine months before they compete at sanctioned events. The next major meet is the 2015 World Championships in Russia, a vital stepping stone on the way to Rio.

Phelps also appeared on Friday at the Arena Grand Prix event in Minneapolis, taking part in warm-up activities in the diving.

"It's wait and see like everybody else. I want Michael to do whatever he thinks is best for Michael," said USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus.

Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, his haul including 18 golds over the last three Games. He beat Mark Spitz' record for a single Olympics with eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008.

The American won six more medals in London before retiring aged 27, insisting he would not return. He will be 31 by the start of the Rio Olympics.

Last December, Phelps said: "Sure, I could come back in another four years. But why? I've done everything I wanted to do. There's no point in coming back."

However during the World Championships in Barcelona this summer, he appeared to have softened his stance. He said: "I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow."

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