måndag 2 februari 2009

"What a Dope" - Michael Phelps apology blame youthful behavior!

Michael Phelps on Sunday issued an apology after the publication of a photo that apparently showed the Olympic champion, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, drawing from a bong (read more).Bongs, of course, are typically used to smoke pot. In a statement issued through his agents, Phelps — while not admitting that he had smoked marijuana — said, “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. “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.” The impact on Phelps’ swim career of the photos is uncertain. Far more clear is that this humbling episode represents a public-relations challenge while raising questions about Phelps’ judgment. Again. After the 2004 Athens Games, Phelps, then 19, was arrested for drunk driving near his Maryland home; the arrest resulted in a guilty plea in court and 18 months probation. Phelps only recently returned to the pool, aiming toward the 2009 world championships in Rome and the 2012 Summer Games in London. In addition to the eight golds he won in Beijing, he won six gold and two bronze medals in Athens. It remained immediately unclear whether the photo, published in the Star magazine and in Britain’s News of the World, would prompt action by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, could not be reached by telephone.Darryl Seibel, the U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman, said the “organization is disappointed in the recent behavior.” To read the USOC’s official statement on Phelps click here.Marijuana is, of course, on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list. Phelps has never failed a drug test over the course of his swim career and it remains uncertain if, without more and reliable evidence that could withstand testing in a court-like setting, anti-doping authorities could — or would be inclined to — pursue a case against him based on the publication of the photo alone.Phelps was one of 12 high-profile U.S. Olympic athletes included in a USADA initiative launched last year involving extensive blood and urine tests, a pilot program he referred to in the book, “No Limits: The Will to Succeed” (I am the co-author of the book).The stories that accompanied the photos in the two tabloids said Phelps was caught on camera partying at the University of South Carolina.
Update: It’s not an anti-doping rule violation.Tygart, in a phone call, reminds that marijuana use — if, indeed, that’s what is at issue here — is not against the anti-doping rules when in out-of-competition period.Even so, Tygart said, “It’s obviously disappointing and a terrible decision by Michael,” adding a moment later, “He recognizes that there’s a penalty, and he’s going to suffer for it,” meaning in perception.As USA Swimming said in a statement, “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.”

By Alan Abrahamson, NBC Sports
Picture: News of the World

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