Phelps, the record-holding eight-time gold medalist, was snapped at a party last November in Columbia, South Carolina, where he was visiting gal pal Jordan Matthews. Witnesses say he spent the entire time drunk and stoned.
A source tells Star magazine, "At one point someone asked him if he wanted to smoke some weed. Michael didn't hesitate and headed to a small back room, where he was immediately handed a big red bong. He grabbed the bong and a lighter and ripped a huge smelly bong rip. He knew exactly what he was doing. He looked just as natural with a bong in his hands as he does swimming the backstroke."
Star and News of the World are claiming that reps for Phelps literally begged them not to run the story, including offering to have Phelps write a serial column for them -- obviously to no avail.
Today Phelps issued a formal apology for his actions, which would be considered laughable of any other college-aged kid in this country.
"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," he says. "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 US Olympic Committee is none too pleased with the pics. "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 a statement. "In this instance, regrettably, he failed to fulfill those responsibilities."
USA Swimming said its Olympic champions are "looked up to by people of all ages, especially young athletes who have their own aspirations and dreams."
"That said," the group added, "we realize that none among us is perfect. We hope that Michael can learn from this incident and move forward in a positive way."
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