Michael Phelps wants you to know that he is very sorry for something, but he still won’t admit that he’s sorry for toking up.
During a Today show interview with Matt Lauer the record breaking Olympian would not admit to smoking pot. The swimmer would only say that he made a mistake. But he did reveal more details about the incident during the poolside chat with Lauer.
“It was an awful judgment. And, really, the people I hurt is my family, clearly, my friends, the close people around me and most importantly, the fans. And I realize that that hurt a lot of people,” Phelps said.
When Lauer asked Phelps directly, “Were you smoking pot?” he hedged once again, repeating the line he’s offered to the media since an incriminating photo of him smoking from a water pipe at a house party at the University of South Carolina surfaced in a British tabloid.
“It was a bad mistake,” Phelps said. “I mean, we all know what you and I are talking about. It's a stupid mistake. You know, bad judgment. And it's something that I have to, and I want to teach other people not to make that mistake.”
The swimmer, who lost a valuable endorsement deal because of the situation, said that he has learned a valuable lesson from the ordeal.
“I've come to realize people want to bring you up, but more people want to bring you down.” He told Lauer. “It’s how the American public is. I've found out and that's definitely somethin' to keep in mind and keep close at heart.”
When Lauer pressed Phelps to explain what was going through his mind when he pressed his lips to the glass contraption, Phelps said he was just trying to fit in.
“I was pretty sheltered growing up — and not really to be the normal high school kid or the normal college kid. And I was just blowing off steam and relaxing and having fun. I mean, we were just celebrating, honestly,” Phelps said.
“There was probably two or three people there I didn't know. It was a very small group. Six or seven people probably total in the whole house. Like nothing major. You know, not like a giant college house party. It was nothing like that. It was just a small group and we were just sitting around and celebrating.
“I'll say that there are a lot of people out there who want to take advantage of any situation they have,” Phelps said. “I trusted my friends who were there about who they were. And clearly they weren't trusted people ... Sometimes you learn the hard way.”
Phelps said he found out about the photos through an email.
“I had no idea really what to do,” he said in the interview. “I knew that I'd made a mistake and made a bad judgment. And I know that when you do make a mistake you're responsible for all of the consequences. And I was willing to accept the fact that I did make a mistake.”
Phelps had made a similar mistake before. After the 2004 Olympics in Athens, a 19-year-old Phelps got in trouble over a DUI. Lauer asked if Phelps thought his credibility was ruined after having to admit to another substance-abuse-related incident.
“I'll be the first one to admit I've made a lot of mistakes in my life in the pool and out of the pool,” Phelps said. “But I have never made the same mistake again. I never made the same mistake twice.
“I think they're both stupid and immature mistakes. And for me, I feel my duty is to try to help other people not make this mistake. I know with my DUI., I have. I have taken people's keys. If they're staying at my house, I hide them in my house so nobody can drive.”
Phelps, who was suspended for three months by USA Swimming, said that he is currently training. The gold-medalist is trying to get into racing shape, and plans to enter the World Swimming Championships this summer.
Another portion of the interview with Lauer is scheduled for a Sunday edition of Nightline.