Phelps 'sorry' for marijuana pipe incident
Olympic great Michael Phelps acknowledged "regrettable" behavior and "bad judgment" after a photo in a British newspaper yesterday showed him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.
In a statement to the Associated Press, the swimmer who won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games did not dispute the authenticity of the exclusive picture published by the tabloid News of the World.
"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in the statement released by one of his agents. "I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."
News of the World said the picture was taken during a November house party while Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina. During that trip, he attended one of the school's football games and received a big ovation when introduced to the crowd.
While the newspaper did not specifically allege that Phelps was smoking pot, it did say the pipe is generally used for that purpose and anonymously quoted a partygoer who said the Olympic champion was "out of control from the moment he got there."
The party occurred nearly three months after the Olympics while Phelps was taking a long break from training, and his actions should have no impact on the eight golds he won at Beijing. He has never tested positive for banned substances. The case is unlikely to fall under any doping rules.
Phelps's main sanctions most likely will be financial - perhaps doled out by embarrassed sponsors who might be reconsidering their dealings with the swimmer.
Phelps was in Tampa during Super Bowl week to make promotional appearances on behalf of a sponsor. But he left the city before the game, abandoning his original plan to be at Raymond James Stadium.
The US Olympic Committee said it was "disappointed in the behavior recently exhibited by Michael Phelps," who was selected the group's sportsman of the year. He also was honored as AP male athlete of the year, and his feat in Beijing - breaking Mark Spitz's record for most gold medals in an Olympics - was chosen as the top story of 2008.
Marijuana is viewed differently from performance-enhancing drugs, according to David Howman, executive director of the World Anti-Doping Agency. An athlete is subject to WADA sanctions only for a positive test during competition periods.
"We don't have any jurisdiction," Howman said. "It's not banned out of competition."