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Monday, February 2, 2009

U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has apologized to fans following tabloid pictures of him smoking a marijuana pipe.

The 23-year-old multiple gold medalist was pictured yesterday in the British Sunday newspaper The News of the World apparently using a “bong” at a University of South Carolina party he attended whilst visiting a friend on November 6, 2008. He released a statement on his Facebook wall, saying “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment.”

The statement said “I’m 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public – it will not happen again.”

Marijuana is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) when athletes are actually competing, but not outside of that. Phelps therefore is unlikely to face sanctions from WADA because of the incident. However, US swimming officials and Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), the international swimming federation, will comment later on their thoughts about the incident. FINA banned Gary Hall for three months in 1998 for marijuana use.

Phelps has never failed a drugs test in his career and has previously volunteered for extra testing as part of the sport’s campaign against performance enhancing drugs. He does, however, have a conviction for drunken driving gained when he was 19. Phelps was named as the U.S. Olympic Committee‘s male athlete of the year last week and was also Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” in 2008. He has endorsement contracts with Speedo, Visa, Guitar Hero and Frosted Flakes.

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