The unquestionable hero of the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps, who collected eight gold medals for his performances in the swimming pool, has admitted to "regrettable behaviour", after a notorious UK Sunday newspaper, the 'News of the World', that specializes in exposing the rich and famous, published on 1 February, 2009, a photograph of him apparently smoking cannabis.
The picture of Phelps, who is 23, was taken in November 2008 at a party at the University of South Carolina, when he was on a long break from training, and showed him inhaling from a glass pipe, that is normally used for smoking cannabis.
Phelps has apologised to his fans and says that the incident would not be repeated. The US swimmer also confirmed that the photograph was genuine and told an International news agency:
"I engaged in behaviour which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. 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." The US Olympic Committee said in a statement that it was "disappointed" with Phelps' behaviour, and added:
"Michael is a role model, and he is well aware of the responsibilities and accountability that come with setting a positive example for others, particularly young people," it said in a statement. In this instance, regrettably, he failed to fulfill those responsibilities." USA Swimming, his Governing Body, said that it hoped that "Michael can learn from this incident and move forward in a positive way". Also, Travis Tygart, head of America's anti-doping agency, said Phelps' participation in a pilot test programme, designed to increase the accuracy of doping tests, could be at risk because of his behaviour, adding:
"For one of the Olympics' biggest heroes it's disappointing, and we'll evaluate whether he remains in that programme." Phelps broke seven world records in Beijing, eight American records and eight Olympic records to become the most decorated male Olympian of all time with a total of 16 medals, including 14 golds. And, in January, 2009, he was named the United States Olympic Committee's sportsman of the year for 2008.
Incidentally, it is not the first time that Phelps has been in trouble; he has previously been involved in drink driving!
So, how has the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reacted to this latest incident? The...