COLUMBIA, S.C. — Michael Phelps will not be charged with marijuana possession, though the Olympic champion swimmer admitted to being pictured holding a marijuana pipe at a Columbia house party in November, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced today.
Lott, speaking during a 3 p.m. press conference at the Sheriff's Department headquarters, said he couldn't ignore the photo but defended his investigation.
"Michael Phelps is truly an American hero ... but even with his star status, he is still obligated to obey the laws of our state," Lott said.
"By ignoring the November incident, I would have been sending a message of tolerance and condoning the use of illegal drugs. I could not do that, nor have I ever done that," he said in a statement.
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Lott said his investigators couldn't find enough evidence to charge anyone — including Phelps — who attended the party with any crime.
Local attorney Bill Nettles, however, had been hired to represent Phelps.
The investigation began Feb. 2, the Monday following the Super Bowl, Lott said. He said he decided during that game that if it happened in Richland County, "We've got to do something about it."
By Wednesday, he said, officers had found the bong believed used in the headline-making photo.
"The bong never made it to e-bay," Lott said, noting the people who had it were riding around in a car with it.
Lott also said the photo that led to the investigation was sold for $100,000 and that officers have a good idea who might have sold it.
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