Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Phelps talks on TV about marijuana pipe photograph

BONG BROUHAHA Asked about how his mother reacted when she found out about the photo, the Olympic great said she ‘didn’t scream’

AP , NEW YORK

Michael Phelps insists he’s more worried about the pain he caused family, friends and fans than losing money in endorsements after he was photographed with a marijuana pipe.

In excerpts from an interview with NBC that aired yesterday morning, the swimming star didn’t directly answer the question of whether he was smoking marijuana.

“It was a bad mistake. I mean, we all know what, you know, what you and I are talking about. It’s a stupid mistake. You know, bad judgment,” he said.

USA Swimming suspended the eight times Olympic gold medalist for three months after the photo was published in a British tabloid on Feb. 1. He also lost his sponsorship from Kellogg’s.

“I’ve come to realize that people want to bring you up, but more people want to bring you down. And that’s how our public is. That’s definitely something to keep in mind and keep close to heart,” he said.

He was questioned about promises he made to fans after a drunk driving arrest in 2004, which the swimmer vowed was a mistake he would not repeat.

“I’ll be the first one to admit I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. Both, like I said, in the pool and out of the pool. I’ve never made the same mistake twice,” he said.

When asked if he considered his driving arrest and the marijuana controversy the same thing, Phelps replied: “In my eyes, no. I think they’re both immature and stupid mistakes. For me, I feel my duty is to try to help other people not make this mistake.”

The photo was taken at a party while Phelps was visiting Columbia, South Carolina, in November during an extended break from training.

“There was probably two or three people there I didn’t know,” he said. “It was a very small group. Six or seven people probably total in the whole house. Like, nothing major. You know, not like a giant college house party. It was nothing like that. It was just a small group and we were just sitting around and celebrating.”

“I’ll say that there are a lot of people out there who want to take advantage of any situation they have. ... Sometimes you learn the hard way,” he said.

“It’s not about money to me,” he said of the fallout. “So, you know, the contract side of things, yeah, I was disappointed. But, you know, I think the biggest thing is who I hurt the most. Like, if I lost money, OK. It’s not an issue with me.”

Asked what his mother’s reaction was, he said: “Didn’t scream. Clearly showed she was upset. She wasn’t reprimanding me.”

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