A county sheriff in South Carolina has decided not to pursue marijuana-related charges against Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who was photographed smoking from a bong at a University of South Carolina party last fall.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 16 that Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that his department’s investigation — which included a pair of raids on students who attended the November party and the seizure of the bong allegedly shown in the photo — didn’t turn up enough evidence to charge Phelps.
“We had a photo and we had him saying he was sorry for his inappropriate behavior. That behavior could’ve been going to a party,” said Lott. “He never said, ’I smoked marijuana.’ He never confessed that.”
Eight other people were arrested on drug charges in connection with the investigation, however. Two detectives spent about 25 hours on the case, Lott said.
Lott said the photo put his department in a “no-win” situation: “Ignore it and be criticized or address it and be criticized. I chose to do what was right.” Indeed, Lott was the subject of criticism both locally and nationally, by defense lawyers as well as drug-policy reform advocates.