Swimming: FINA back Phelps
Governing body expresses its "confidence and admiration"
Last Updated: 04/02/09 11:22pm
Swimming star Michael Phelps has received the backing of the sport's governing body after he was photographed apparently using illegal drugs.
The 23-year-old, who won eight gold medals at last year's Beijing Games, has expressed remorse after the News of the World published a photograph of him inhaling from a type of glass pipe used to smoke cannabis.
Although he stopped short of admitting to using the drug, Phelps said his behaviour had been "regrettable" and that he had "demonstrated bad judgment".
The American has already received backing from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee, although the latter expressed their disappointment at his behaviour.
Now FINA have added their support for Phelps, a statement reading: "After acknowledging the behaviour of Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian ever and the best swimmer in history, FINA would like to reiterate its confidence and admiration for a young champion that publicly apologised for his act.
"Following his unprecedented eight gold medals in a single edition of the Olympic Games, Michael Phelps definitively became a model for youth worldwide.
"His achievements, winning attitude and respect for his opponents are values that will remain in the history of sport.
"As a citizen, Michael Phelps displayed inappropriate behaviour, but his sincere regret and the promise that such a situation will not happen again are sufficient guarantees that this great star will continue generating respect and appreciation to all fans of our sport around the globe.
"FINA certainly counts on Michael Phelps to highlight the next editions of the FINA World Championships and other prestigious swimming competitions in the future."
Smoking cannabis out of competition is not an offence under the World Anti-Doping Code.
Furthermore, athletes who are resting or in training are not tested for the substance because it is not regarded as performance-enhancing.
However, Phelps has been told to expect further discussion with the US Olympic Committee - chief executive Jim Scherr admitting fears he may commit another lapse in judgment.
"I think obviously his sponsors and the people who are close to him will be and are concerned about whether or not there may be a recurrence or whether or not this is a pattern of behaviour," Scherr said.
"I would just say that, based on this occurrence, we at the United States Olympic Committee are exceptionally disappointed in Michael as I know he is in himself.
"We will be following up in conversations with Michael and the people that are close to him in the near future."