Not Enough Evidence To Charge Phelps, Sheriff Says

Michael Phelps admitted “regrettable behavior” after a photo of him using a bong was published.Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps will not face criminal charges in connection with a November party at which he was photographed using a bong, a South Carolina sheriff said Monday.

“We do not believe we have enough evidence to prosecute anyone” who was at the party in Columbia, South Carolina, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters, adding that authorities are ending their investigation into Phelps.

“We had a photo, and we had him saying he was sorry for his inappropriate behavior,” Lott said. “That behavior could have been going to a party. … He never said, ‘I smoked marijuana.’ He never confessed to that. We didn’t have physical evidence. We didn’t have enough where we could go arrest him.”

Phelps, 23, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, admitted “regrettable behavior” after a British newspaper published the photograph about two weeks ago. The tabloid News of the World showed Phelps using the bong during what it said was a November party at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

A bong is a device commonly used to smoke marijuana. University police and Columbia police both said they would not pursue charges against Phelps.

Lott said he has not spoken to Phelps, but hopes the swimming champion has learned from his mistakes and is willing to share an anti-drug message with children.

Phelps said Monday he had learned some “important lessons” from the incident.

“I’m glad this matter is put to rest,” he said in a written statement. “But there are also some important lessons that I’ve learned. For me, it’s all about recognizing that I used bad judgment and it’s a mistake I won’t make again. For young people especially — be careful about the decisions you make. One bad decision can really hurt you and the people you care about.

“I really appreciate the support my family and fans have shown me, and now I will move forward and dive back into the pool, having put this whole thing behind me.”

Phelps told CNN affiliate WBAL in Baltimore, Maryland, “This is something that I need to learn from, will learn from and have learned from.”

“I know that a lot of people make mistakes, and the best way to learn from them is changing things,” Phelps told WBAL.

Lott said the photo that surfaced of Phelps put him and his department in a “no-win situation.” If he had ignored it, he said, he would have faced criticism, but he also was criticized for investigating.

However, he said, the photo did initiate an investigation into goings-on at the home where the party took place, and some people were arrested on suspicion of drug possession. The home has been the focus of previous drug-related investigations, he said.

He defended his investigation, saying, “As a cop, my responsibility is to enforce the law, not to create it or ignore it. Marijuana in the state of South Carolina is illegal.”

– Article from CNN on February 16, 2009.



  1. Anonymous on

    The common excuse from Concentration Camp guards and other criminals in Nazi Germany when they were asked why they did what they did: “I wasn’t making the rules, I was just following orders!”

  2. Joe and his six pack on

    They say money does not grow on trees but I beleive that is false.
    Because you have the hells angles over here growing pot and making millions and we have the bandagle are what not over there the other gangs in between growing money from trees. If we tax and regulated it treating it like alcohal the money tree would end for the black market Let me say it again the end of the black market would end and all the wars that go with it the drug war would end as no profits no fighting for the money tree.

  3. Joe and his six pack on

    Cannabis culture and High times should Be sponsoring This Guy as a champion and as our roll modal for doing somthing that is safer than alcohol.

  4. Anonymous on

    you know i was kinda hoping he would be charged….he would have been a great martyr…someone that could have shown how messed up pot laws are…

  5. Anonymous on

    The reason they decided to back off on Phelps is undoubtedly linked to the public support of Phelps and outrage against our failed War on Drugs. This also comes at a time when Mexico is a bloody war zone and three former Latin American leaders have created a commission to address serious drug policy reform. The U.N. is set to meet in Vienna next month, where they will tackle drug policy head-on. Even among our own Democratic strategists, there is agreement that marijuana prohibition must end. Phelps was merely a catalyst which they are now trying to diffuse, yet the economic crisis is one of many others that isn’t going away. The drug war is finished, it’s time to move on and implement the only logical solution–which is outlined by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition at Tell your friends, representatives and local news provider the good news: the War on Drugs is over, and humanity has won. Now, who knows where to get some hemp seeds and ayahuasca tea?!

  6. James on

    What a fucking joke. So what if he smokes pot, after working his ass off and getting the most gold medals ever in one year he deserves to cut loose. How quick we tear down our heros. Smoke your heart out Phelps you’ve earned it.

  7. Anonymous on

    Lott says as a cop, his responsibility is to enforce the law, not to create it or ignore it. Then doesn’t that mean that he would never use his office to oppose leagalization, right? How about him attempting to be an up to date informed, caring human being first. It was much better when cops were peace officers that kept the peace and not millitaristic “law enforcement” drones that go out of there way to force people to obey bad laws. Cops are only allowed to believe in ” Drugs users! Bad, Police Good!” I’ll bet that if Phelps would have admitted it was ganja he would still be trying to arrest him and ignoring the violent crime that permeates his county and state.
    Hank Myers

  8. Anonymous on