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Law enforcement looking into Michael Phelps incident

February 3, 2009 | 12:27 pm

Michael Phelps could face criminal charges in South Carolina as a result of the bong picture.

Sgt. Kim Myers, a spokesperson for the Richland County, S.C., Sheriff's Dept., on Tuesday confirmed that the incident is under investigation by the department's narcotics division.

The Feb. 2 edition of the British tabloid News of the World had a picture of Phelps sucking on a glass pipe of a type generally used to inhale cannabis, an illegal drug, at a party that reportedly took place Nov. 6 in Columbia, S.C.

Myers declined to elaborate on an investigation in progress.

Phelps' management company, Octagon, had issued a statement on his  behalf Sunday that pointedly did not dispute the accuracy of the picture.

In the statement, Phelps called his behavior "regrettable'' and said he acted in a "youthful and inappropriate way'' but did not mention the pipe or what was in it.

The Associated Press has characterized Leon Lott, the Richland County sheriff as being "known for his tough stance on drugs.''

And, on its web site, thestate.com, a Columbia, S.C, newpaper, reported that Lott would charge Phelps -- if he determines that the Olympic champion swimmer had smoked marijuana in Richland County.

"This case is no different than any other case,'' Lott told the newspaper.  "This one might be a lot easier since we have photographs of someone using drugs and a partial confession.  It's a relatively easy case once we can determine where the crime occurred.''

Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable in South Carolina by up to 30 days in jail or a $570 fine, plus court costs, the newspaper said.

-- Philip Hersh

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