Michael Phelps became America's sweetheart last summer when he swam into the record books at last year's Beijing Olympics, winning eight gold medals. But his reputation may take a nose dive now that a photograph has surfaced of the Olympian champion smoking marijuana from a bong.
Phelps admitted it was him and apologized yesterday for his bad judgment, saying, "I'm 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way. It will not happen again."
But this isn't the first time Phelps has been in trouble with the law. In 2004, shortly after winning six gold and two bronze medals at the Athens Olympics, then underage Phelps pled guilty to drunken driving and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
"I recognize the seriousness of this mistake. I've learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life," Phelps told the judge at his hearing as more than 100 spectators packed the courtroom, mostly to see the famed Olympic champion.
Phelps is only one in a long line of athletes who have faced scrutiny and punishment for their involvement with drugs.
- In 1998, Gary Hall Jr., a United States swimmer who won four medals at the 1996 Olympics, was suspended for three months by swimming’s international governing body, FINA, for testing positive for marijuana.
- English rugby superstar, Matt Stevens, failed a test last month and admitted his addiction to a drug, believed to be cocaine. He now faces a two-year ban from the rugby union.
- In 2007, Martina Hingis shocked the world when she tested positive for cocaine at the Wimbledon Championships. She retired immediately from tennis.
Lucky for Phelps, under the current World Anti-Doping Agency code, cannabis is not considered a banned substance during out-of-competition testing. Athletes face suspension only if they test positive for it at a competition.
Experts can't agree on whether the revelation will affect Phelps's image. Some say the incident most likely will since it conflicts with the positive, healthy brand he has constructed to date, while others say it humanizes Phelps in a way that may appeal to some. What do you think? Does this change how you see the Olympiad?