BALTIMORE, Maryland, February 1. NOT many things in the sporting world can potentially overshadow Super Bowl Sunday, but Michael Phelps might have just done it after admitting to the authenticity of an image published by United Kingdom's News of the World.
The article, which shows an image of the superstar Olympic gold medalist lighting up a bong, has made the rounds over the past 24 hours. Many questioned the legitimacy of the image, but Phelps eliminated all doubt when he released the following statement to the media:
"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said. "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 article also alleges that Phelps' representation at Octagon attempted to bribe the paper to squash the story:
Spokesman Clifford Bloxham offered us an extraordinary deal not to publish our story, saying Phelps would become our columnist for three years, host events and get his sponsors to advertise with us.
In return, he asked that we kill Phelps' bong picture. Bloxham said: "It's seeing if something potentially very negative for Michael could turn into something very positive for the News of the World."
USA Swimming has since released its own supportive statement regarding the situation:
We are certainly disappointed in Michael's behavior. Our Olympic champions are role models who are looked up to by people of all ages, especially young athletes who have their own aspirations and dreams.
That said, we realize that none among us is perfect. We hope that Michael can learn from this incident and move forward in a positive way.
In further reporting by the Associated Press, WADA responded that marijuana usage is outside of its jurisdiction outside of the competition season:
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 that occurs during competition periods.
"We don't have any jurisdiction," Howman said. "It's not banned out of competition. It's only if you test positive in competition."
Therefore, stringent rules regarding drug issues and a potential ban from future Olympics do not look to be in play in this situation.