JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Did he ever actually say he smoked marijuana?

I?m not sure Michael Phelps ever really did say he had committed a crime or did take a bong hit of weed. He did admit to irresponsible behavior and adolescent decision-making, but I don?t think that?s illegal.

Of course I?m not being stupid or naïve about what happened at the party at the University of South Carolina. Phelps was wrong. It?s just the firestorm of publicity, all negative, has been a little much for a picture taken by an anonymous person and sold for a ton of money to a tabloid.

First of all, who does that? I know Phelps is famous and I know that everybody has a camera either in their pocket or on their phone, but must every well known person have to hide in their house for fear that their picture will be taken?

It?s just wrong and a shame, but it doesn?t absolve Phelps from serious bad judgment. At 23 years old he has a lot of life experience for somebody his age, but he?s still young and is going to do stupid things. This qualifies as one of those stupid things, no question.

I do think USA Swimming made the right move, suspending Phelps for three months. It?s not that he failed a drug test or they?re keeping him out of any big time competition, but they?re sending a strong message that they?re not going to let the little things go and they?re not putting up with any irresponsible behavior from anybody.

Phelps apology was one of those non-denial denials, but at least it was an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. He knows who he is and he knows he?ll have to be a better custodian of his lifestyle if he expects companies to rely on him as a spokesman.

When he won the eight medals in China, his agents estimated that he?d be worth $100 million. Maybe so and possibly he?ll win more gold in London, but his mistakes being forgiven are now over.

Kellogg?s has already dropped him and I?m sure his other sponsors are taking a long, serious look at what the public perception is of Phelps in the long-term. A DUI when he was 19 and now this picture have expired his chances.

People will forgive Phelps and if he?s contrite enough as we go forward, this will be a thing of the past. This is also the kind of thing that will motivate him to train harder and prove that he?s not some kind of dope head who is getting ready to fall into the abyss.

Phelps is a likeable guy who?s fabulously talented, highly motivated and out of chances.

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