The criminal investigation into the Michael Phelps bong photo has gone up in smoke.
The Olympic record-breaker will not face charges related to a photograph that shows him smoking a bong at a South Carolina party last November, cops said.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he didn't have enough evidence to prosecute Michael Phelps when he revealed the details of his investigation.
"We don't have enough evidence to charge anyone," Lott said during a press conference today. "We had a photo and him saying he was sorry for inappropriate behavior. He never said, 'I smoked marijuana.'"
Michael Phelps: "I Have Made a Mistake."
The sheriff defending his investigation and spoke out against drug usage.
"Michael Phelps is truly an American hero ... but even with his star status, he is still obligated to obey the laws of our state," Lott said. "How can you tell our kids through DARE not to do drugs but look the other way when someone famous does drugs."
Phelps released a statement after the sheriff's decision.
"I'm glad this matter is put to rest. But there are also some important lessons that I've learned," Phelps said in the statement. "For me, it's all about recognizing that I used bad judgment and it's a mistake I won't make again. For young people especially — be careful about the decisions you make. One bad decision can really hurt you and the people you care about. I really appreciate the support my family and fans have shown me and now I will move forward and dive back into the pool, having put this whole thing behind me."
Photographs of Phelps smoking a bong during a November party were first published in a British tabloid on Feb. 1. He has not publicly said he was smoking marijuana but apologized for the photo.
Earlier arrests of eight people linked to the party where Phelps was photographed was the first step in building a criminal case against the swimmer, an attorney for one of those arrested said.
"All these people have been asked the same questions," attorney Dick Harpootlian said on Feb. 12. "It's all about Michael Phelps."
Phelps was one of about 40 party-goers at a South Carolina ranch home last November. About two dozen people passed around a bong as Phelps made a $2,000 bet on a game of high-stakes beer pong, witnesses said.
The Olympic champ was photographed sometime after midnight when witnesses said they saw a woman snap a picture with her camera phone but it was unclear if it was the same photo that was published in the British newspaper.
The sheriff and former narcotics officer felt obligated to investigate party-goers once Phelps confirmed that he was photographed at the party, supporters of Lott told The State (S.C.) newspaper.