Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says he will charge Michael Phelps with a crime if he determines the Olympics hero smoked marijuana in Richland County.
Phelps, who set a record with eight gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics, was photographed smoking a marijuana pipe at a November party in Columbia.
The picture was published in the British newspaper News of the World. Phelps apologized Sunday, calling his behavior "inappropriate."
"This case is no different than any other case," Lott said Monday. "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 by up to 30 days in jail or a $570 fine, plus court costs.
But Lott seems to be the only person talking about making a case against Phelps. Both the USC and Columbia Police Departments said they would not pursue charges.
It was unclear Monday where the party took place, including whether it was on campus.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Phelps' sponsors – from apparel company Speedo to luxury Swiss watchmaker Omega – issued statements calling the incident a "non-issue." The International Olympic Committee accepted his apology.
"We have no reason to doubt his sincerity and his commitment to continue to act as a role model," the IOC said in a statement.
At the University of South Carolina, where Phelps was visiting when the picture was taken, the mood was largely "who cares?"
"It's not a surprise," said India Jones, a sophomore biology major. "He's young, and he is human. They'll probably let him off easy because he owned up to it."
Lots of public figures have admitted to smoking marijuana – including President Barack Obama.
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