Phelps suspended from swimming, loses Kellogg contract

February 6th, 2009 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Michael PhelpsWashington, Feb 6 (DPA) American swimmer Michael Phelps, the winner of the most Olympic medals in history, was suspended Thursday from competing for three months and lost his lucrative contract with the Kellogg cereal company, newspaper reports said.The moves were the latest fallout from a photograph published in an English tabloid over the weekend showing the 23-year-old smoking a long glass pipe, or bong, associated with the consumption of marijuana.

The photo was taken at a party at a university in South Carolina.

“It was a bad judgement,” Phelps told WBAL television from his hometown in Baltimore Thursday.

In response to the reporter’s question about what he was thinking at the time, he said: “Obviously, not much.”

“I can learn from it and try to make my life better,” Phelps said. “I made mistakes and I have to live with every mistake I make.”

Phelps has previously admitted he was the person in the photograph but did not admit to smoking marijuana. He has also apologised for his behaviour, and the International Olympic Committee has not threatened him with suspension.

Although not considered a performance-enhancing drug, marijuana is on the list of prohibited substances and several athletes have been banned for using marijuana.

Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics Games last summer, more than any Olympics gold medals at a single games. Fellow US swimmer Mark Spitz had held the previous record of seven medals from 1972. In his Olympic career, Phelps has won 14 golds, also a record.

Kellogg Co said Phelps’ contract would be allowed to expire at the end of February and would not be renewed, The New York Times and Washington Post reported.

“Michael’s most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg,” Susanne Norwitz, a company spokeswoman, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The value of the contract, which put Phelps’ picture on the front of packages of Frosted Flakes (along with the brand image of Tony the Tiger) and Corn Flakes, was not known.

Also Thursday, USA Swimming, which governs competitive swimming in the US, publicly reprimanded Phelps, temporarily withdrew its financial support for him and barred him from competition.

“We decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero,” the organisation said in a statement.

Phelps told WBAL television that he was swimming again, which was a source of relaxation from all the stress over the photograph.

“I can be myself, and I feel at home in the water,” said Phelps, who also was the object of controversy when he was arrested for drunk driving after the Athens Olympics in 2004, where he won six gold medals.

He said it had been “impossible” to imagine the sort of pressures that would come with his global fame as the world’s fastest swimmer in so many different styles.

Several of Phelps’ sponsors, including Speedo and Omega, have accepted Phelps’ apology while others, like Visa and Subway, have not yet taken a stance.

Earlier this week, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal came to Phelps’ defence.

“He has been on holiday for some time,” Nadal said. “He has attained all his goals, and he is taking a sabbatical leave, and he is totally free to be able to do it. He will have plenty of time to get back and prepare for the coming games.”

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