British Paper Busts Partying Michael Phelps, He Issues Apology

U.K. tabloid News of the World has published a photo of what is claimed to be American Olympian Michael Phelps holding a bong to his mouth.

Phelps, 23, saw his fame shoot into the statosphere after winning a record eight gold medals last summer at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Altogether, the Baltimore-born  swimmer has 14 gold and two bronze medals.

But the British paper has published a damning report which notes that Phelps arrived at Columbia, South Carolina’s University of South Carolina to visit Jordan Matthews, a student he was seeing in early November, and proceeded to drink hard and get stoned during his wild stay.

“Michael came to visit Jordan but ended up just getting wasted every night,” says a News of the World source.

“He didn’t know many people so you’d think he’d be a little shy. But he was loud, obnoxious and slamming beers from the get-go.”

The photo that is alleged to be Phelps smoking pot was said to be taken at a house party in the South Carolina college town.

“You could tell Michael had smoked before. He grabbed the bong and a lighter and knew exactly what to do,” the NOTW party-going snitch added.

“He looked just as natural with a bong in his hands as he does swimming in the pool. He was the gold medal winner of bong hits. Michael ended up getting a little paranoid, though, because before too long he looked like he was nervous and ran out of the place.”

In December, Phelps was chosen as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. As well, he’s earned millions in product endorsement deals since his summer 2008 wins.

The News of the World goes on to claim that the handlers in Michael Phelps’ camp—such as spokesman Clifford Bloxham—offered the publication “an extraordinary deal not to publish our story, saying Phelps would become our columnist for three years, host events and get his sponsors to advertise with us.”

Clearly, that was an offer the News could refuse.

UPDATE: The New York Times today published an apologetic statement from Phelps, issued by the athlete’s marketing agency, Octagon:

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” said Phelps.

“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 carefully worded statement, however, made no acknowledgement of the pipe pictured in the News of the World’s photo.