BALTIMORE (AP) — Olympic champion Michael Phelps said Wednesday it has been difficult coping with the fallout from a photo of him smoking from a marijuana pipe.
"It's something I am going to have to live with and something I'll have to grow from," Phelps told The Associated Press outside the pool where he trains. "I know with all of the mistakes I made, I learned from them and that is what I expect to do from this. By no means it is fun for me, by no means is it easy."
It was the first time Phelps had publicly addressed the photo since issuing an apology Sunday after it surfaced in a British tabloid over the weekend.
Wearing a black sweat suit and shaking off the remaining drops of water in his hair after a workout at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center, Phelps said the most important thing for him is that he was back in the pool training.
"I'm back to my routine, the thing I love, the thing I care about most," Phelps said. "To be able to get back in the water and get back to a normal schedule is what I am happy about most."
Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, in November took over operation of Meadowbrook and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where the swimmer began training at age 7.
Phelps declined to address the possibility of criminal charges and reiterated his desire to put the furor behind him.
"You know, it happens," he said. "When stupid things are (done), bad judgment is made and mistakes are made, it happens."
Phelps apologized to his fans and sponsors after the tabloid News of the World published a picture that appeared to show the Olympic champion smoking marijuana during a November house party at the University of South Carolina.
The photo wasn't the first time Phelps has been in trouble for his activities away from the pool. After the 2004 Athens Games, an underage Phelps was arrested for drunken driving, pleaded guilty and apologized to his fans.
Several of Phelps' sponsors — including Visa, apparel company Speedo and luxury Swiss watchmaker Omega — have expressed their support of the athlete, who won a record eight golds medals at the Beijing Olympics last summer.
"I have a relationship with all of my sponsors and they are really like family," Phelps said. "It's been like that for our whole partnership together. And it's good to have support in a time like this. This is when you most need it." it."
He was also appreciative of the backing he's gotten from those close to him.
"Right now, at a time like this, this is when you really know who are your real friends and family," said Phelps, 23. "At a time like this, you really notice who is there in good times and in bad. And I have had a lot of support and that is something I am thankful for."
On Wednesday in Switzerland, swimming's governing body praised Phelps for his public apology.
"As a citizen, Michael Phelps displayed inappropriate behavior," FINA said in a statement. "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."
But the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee said Wednesday he'd like to have a face-to-face meeting with Phelps, and spokesman Darryl Seibel said the federation was sending the Olympic star a letter offering its assistance.
Phelps has apologized. Now the USOC wants to help him avoid a repeat.
"Based on this occurrence, we at the USOC, as we said in an earlier statement, are exceptionally disappointed in him, as he is in himself," Jim Scherr said during a conference call that was set to preview the 2010 Winter Olympics, but also included several mentions of Phelps. "We'll follow up and have a direct conversation with him and people close to him."
The USOC can't do much to penalize him. Anti-doping rules don't call for sanctions against athletes who test positive for marijuana when they're not competing. And the USOC's code of conduct doesn't apply to athletes once the games are over.
AP Sports Writer Eddie Pells and AP correspondent Todd Karpovich contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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