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Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps: Behavior "regrettable"

Olympic great Michael Phelps acknowledged "regrettable" behavior and "bad judgment" after a British newspaper yesterday published a photo of him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the swimmer who won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games did not dispute the authenticity of the exclusive picture in the tabloid News of the World.

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in the statement. "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."

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News of the World said the picture was taken during a November house party while Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina. He attended one of the school's football games and got a big ovation when introduced to the crowd.

While the paper did not specifically allege that Phelps was smoking pot, it did say the pipe is generally used for that purpose and anonymously quoted a partygoer who said the Olympic champion was "out of control from the moment he got there."

The party occurred nearly three months after the Olympics as Phelps was taking a long break from training, and his actions should have no impact on the record eight golds he won in Beijing. He has never tested positive for banned substances. The case is unlikely to fall under any doping rules.

Phelps' main sanctions are likely to be financial, perhaps doled out by sponsors who might be reconsidering their dealings with the swimmer.

Phelps was in Tampa, Fla., during Super Bowl week to make promotional appearances. But he left the city before the game.

The U.S. Olympic Committee said it was "disappointed in the behavior recently exhibited by Michael Phelps," who was named its sportsman of the year. He also was honored as AP male athlete of the year. "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," the USOC said. "In this instance, regrettably, he failed to fulfill those responsibilities."

In 2004, a few months after winning six golds and two bronzes in Athens, Phelps was arrested on a drunken-driving charge at age 19. He pleaded guilty and apologized for the mistake.

THE TALK

What to tell kids about Michael Phelps:

Dr. Constantine Ioannou, vice chairman of psychiatry at Nassau University Medical Center, warned that children who admired Michael Phelps may be disappointed by the swimming star's use of a marijuana pipe. The news may also encourage them to think, "If it's OK for him, it's OK for me," Ioannou said.

Parents should remind children and young athletes that drugs are harmful to their health, and that "just because Michael Phelps does it, doesn't mean it's acceptable."

Phelps is no different from anyone else - he makes mistakes, Ioannou said.

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