6 Feb 2009

Phelps banned for three months over 'pipe photo'

8:00 pm on 6 February 2009

American swimmer Michael Phelps has been suspended from all competitions for three months after being photographed holding what appeared to be a cannabis pipe to his mouth.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last year, has lost one of his main commercial sponsors over the incident, the cereal and snack firm Kellogg.

The 23-year-old has apologised for his "regrettable behaviour", but he did not say whether he had taken drugs.

USA Swimming said it was not a situation where any anti-doping rule had been violated.

However, it wanted to send a strong message to Phelps because he disappointed so many people - particularly the thousands of children who look up to him as a role model and hero.

Phelps's financial support has also been cut off for the same three-month period, the sport's national governing body said.

Phelps was caught on camera inhaling from a type of glass pipe which can be used for smoking cannabis.

The photo, which appeared in Britain's News of the World newspaper, was said to have been taken at a student party last November when Phelps was on a long break from training.