Phelps says three-month suspension is fair

Michael Phelps says it’s fair for United States Swimming to suspend him for three months, the latest fallout from a photo showing the Olympic great apparently inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

Phelps was back at his regular pool in Baltimore on Friday, a day after his suspension.

”I have nothing to say, but if that’s they want to do, that’s their choice,” Phelps said. ”It’s something that USA Swimming came up with. It’s fair. Obviously, for a mistake you should get punished.”

The latest fallout has been much greater than in 2004, when an underage Phelps was arrested for drunken driving three months after the Athens Olympics. He pleaded guilty and apologised to his fans, saying he wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Phelps won a record eight gold medals in Beijing and returned to America as one of the world’s most acclaimed athletes. He made headlines of a different kind, however, in the wake of the photo, published on Sunday by News of the World, a British tabloid.

Phelps wasn’t sure how the negative publicity might influence his decision to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.

”I’m taking it step by step, day by day. There’s still a long way between now and then,” he said. ”But I’m back here, I’m training for who knows what yet. But I’m back in the water, doing the thing I love.”

That’s a welcome diversion from the attention he’s getting outside the pool.

His coach, Bob Bowman, said the suspension will alter his plans for Phelps, who recently resumed serious training with the goal of qualifying for this summer’s world championships in Rome.

”It takes away some options from our planning. You know, we had a plan of meets to kind of get us ready for the end of the summer and now we’ll have to adjust that,” Bowman said. ”That kind of comes with this territory.”

With the three-month suspension he won’t be able to take on any rivals until early May, which would give him a little more than two months of competition before July’s worlds.

The US team for Rome will be chosen at the national championships from July 7 to 11 in Indianapolis. — Sapa-AP

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