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Old 02-05-09, 08:49 PM
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USA Swimming Suspends Phelps For 3 Months

USA Swimming Suspends Phelps For 3 Months
Phelps Gives First TV Interview After Photo Flap
POSTED: Thursday, February 5, 2009

BALTIMORE -- Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps talked about learning from his mistakes and his future career plans in his first TV interview since a photo of him smoking a marijuana pipe was published.

When asked by WBAL-TV how he was doing, he said, "I guess as good as I can. Being able to have support through times like this is the most important thing -- I'm really able to find out who my true friends and family are, because they're supporting me through it all."

Phelps said other athletes have been helping him get through it.
"There are a lot of people who have been in my shoes in other sports … and that's been a lot of help the last couple of days," he said.

Phelps said he wanted his supporters and fans around the world to know it's important to learn from your mistakes.

"The biggest thing is, I clearly made some bad judgments and mistakes in my life, and I think the best thing is to learn from your mistakes. That's already what I've done and what I continue to do. I'm going to do everything I can in the pool. I'm already back in the water training, and still deciding on a lot of things. But I'm happy to be back in the water," he said.

Phelps told WBAL that swimming makes him happy and helps him relax. But when asked if he would be competing in the World Championships in Rome this summer and in London at the 2012 Olympics, he said while swimming has been a part of his life for so long, he isn't ready to decide if swimming is part of his long-term career plans.

The marijuana photo eventually wound up in Star Magazine, forcing Phelps to publicly apologize. Star Magazine said the picture of the marijuana incident was taken during a November house party while Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina.

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in the statement released by one of his agents after the incident. "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."

After the 2004 Athens Games, an underage Phelps was arrested for drunken driving, pleaded guilty and apologized to his fans, saying he wouldn't make the same mistake again.

The marijuana incident, while different, could have the same damaging impact on Phelps' image and reputation, which were riding high after he won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games.

Even so, two of Phelps' leading sponsors have still expressed support for him.

Luxury Swiss watchmaker Omega termed Phelps' actions a private matter and "nonissue." Swimwear manufacturer Speedo called the 23-year-old American a "valued member of the Speedo team."

The International Olympic Committee is also backing the gold medalist.

"Michael Phelps is a great Olympic champion," the IOC said in a statement to the AP. "He apologized for his inappropriate behavior. We have no reason to doubt his sincerity and his commitment to continue to act as a role model."

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, and this case doesn't fall under any doping rules.

Marijuana is viewed differently from performance-enhancing drugs, said David Howman, executive director of the World Anti-Doping Agency. An athlete is subject to WADA sanctions only for a positive test that occurs during competition periods.

However, a Richland County, S.C., sheriff said his office is investigating the incident to see if they may press charges against Phelps if the party took place in the county.

"Our narcotics division is reviewing the information that we have, and they're investigating what charges, if any, will be filed," said Lt. Chris Cowan, a spokesman for agency.

Under South Carolina law, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $200 and 30 days in jail for the first offense. Possession of paraphernalia is a $500 fine.


Distributed by Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

USA Swimming Suspends Phelps For 3 Months - San Antonio Sports News Story - KSAT San Antonio
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