SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – Olympic silver medallist skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson has committed suicide near Salt Lake City, days after his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, police said on Tuesday.
Peterson, 29, was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Monday night, shortly after he had called emergency dispatch to say he was going to kill himself, said Lieutenant Justin Hoyal, a spokesman for Unified Police of Greater Salt Lake.
He was a silver medallist in the men’s freestyle aerials competition at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.
Peterson’s body was found beside his vehicle on a road just outside Salt Lake City, Hoyal said. Police said he left a suicide note, but they declined to reveal the contents of the message.
Peterson’s death on Monday came three days after the Olympic athlete was arrested in Idaho on suspicion of misdemeanour drunken driving. He was released from the Blaine County Jail in Idaho after posting $500 bail.
He had been arrested after speeding in a Dodge Dakota pickup through Hailey on Friday, in south-central Idaho, at an estimated 70 miles per hour — over the local speed limit of 25 mph — police said.
He failed three field sobriety tests, including a walk and turn and a one-leg stand, according to a police report.
Peterson pleaded not guilty in paperwork filed by his attorney to the charge of driving under the influence and the speeding citation.
Originally from Boise, Idaho, he most recently lived in the ski haven of Park City, Utah. He had not planned on competing during the 2012 season and was a full-time business student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
Peterson gained the nickname “Speedy” because coaches thought he resembled the cartoon character “Speed Racer” when wearing his helmet, the association said.
He invented his signature jump the “Hurricane”, a five-twist and three-flip manoeuvre that landed him the silver medal in Vancouver.
“I know Speedy’s friends and family were incredibly proud of his effort in Vancouver, and his achievements were an inspiration to people all over the world,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement.
“The personal challenges Speedy has battled are familiar to all of us, and on behalf of the U.S. Olympic Committee, I’d like to offer my sympathy to Speedy’s family and friends,” Blackmun said.
Peterson’s behaviour at times got him in trouble with the law and sports officials. In 2006, he was sent home from Italy’s Turin Winter Olympics after a fight, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
Peterson was found guilty in 2008 of public urination in Boise and in 2006 he pleaded guilty to theft by receiving stolen property, according to Idaho court records.
(Additional reporting by Laura Zuckerman, writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan and Ossian Shine)