BALTIMORE -- In a shocking admission of guilt, Michael Phelps, 14-time gold medalist and star of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, released a statement through his agent yesterday in which he admitted to and apologized for his criminal behavior. The confession came after a photograph emerged in British tabloids on Saturday, revealing the young swimmer frozen in an Olympian bong-hit at a Greek party:
"I want to apologize to friends, family, and my sponsors for my inappropriate conduct. I truly regret my poor judgment, and I hope that my supporters will give me another chance. I promise to be more aware of my strength, and I promise to exercise restraint in the future. But, most of all, I want to apologize to that bong. I'm an Olympic athlete, and I put my 'all' into everything, even bong hits. I swim hard, and I puff hard, that's just how I am."
The news of the Olympic swimmer's assault capped a remarkable weekend in sports. On Saturday, Raphael Nadal clinched the Australian Open title from Roger Federer in a memorable, hard-fought, five-set thriller, postponing the Swiss tennis star's attempt to tie Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slams. On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers one-upped the Spanish phenom by winning Super Bowl XLII in dramatic fashion over the Arizona Cardinals by way of a dazzling touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Considering the magnitude of these impressive athletic achievements, few in the media believed that either could be topped. But of course, Michael Phelps, a notorious over-achiever, was up to the challenge and has yet again proved the skeptics wrong. With his historic performance at the bong, Phelps surpassed them all and was named 'the Gold Medal Winner of Bong Hits' by the same British tabloid that broke the news of his now famous toke.
The occasion is certainly a historic one. Few could have imagined that New York Giant Plaxico Burress's memorable midseason self-shooting, itself an awe-inspiring event, would be duplicated and improved upon by another famous athlete so quickly. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that, less than a day after his initial statement, the Baltimore Bullet expressed to the A.P. his desire to turn his widely publicized apology into an opportunity--into the means by which he might bring attention to some important issues he feels are often ignored by the general public.
Remaining characteristically modest, the decorated athlete articulated his eagerness to bring recognition to those who consistently give of themselves and spend their lives in service, "We should really be congratulating the bong. I really hit that thing hard, and it responded," Mr. Phelps said in subsequent statements. "This has been great publicity for [bongs]. For so long, they've taken a backseat to doobies, pipes, and the many other devices used to smoke weed; unfairly, they've never gotten the recognition they deserve."
The swimmer's agent went on to express his client's ardent belief that most bongs are hindered by low standards and cultural restrictions, and as a result, aim lower than they should. They generally end up in squalor, caked in Cheeto Cheese, living on coffee tables in poorly lit apartments under the ownership of fat white guys with names like Doozer, he said. But Phelps hopes that the attention he has helped bring them might make a difference for a new generation of young pipes: "Every once in a while, a bong dares to dream bigger, hoping to make it onto an international stage. Today, this dream has come true, and we're all so glad that Michael could help to make a difference," his agent said.
The United States Olympic Committee President, Peter Ueberroth, was one of many notable figures to react to the superstar's comments with a sense of admiration. The USOC President conveyed his high regard for the mature way in which the young swimmer admitted the shortcomings of his over-zealous treatment of the bong and is now trying to let his true, altruistic intentions shine through, "You know, it's just amazing. When I first saw the picture of Michael hitting that bong, I wasn't sure that this was the right choice - for him or us - but now that I see the universal benefit of what Michael has done...it's hard to think otherwise. Really hard," he said contemplatively, before finishing, "And what's more? The bong will soon be more famous than I am. That sure is one lucky bong!"
Many have inquired as to what happened to the bong after its assault by the gold medalist. Though the bong could not be reached for comment, according to inside sources, the student who owned the bong has already sold it secretly on eBay for a hefty sum and has since dropped out of college. Phelps and his agents are currently in the process of trying to recover the bong from the anonymous buyer.
When asked to comment, Phelps smiled and said that it was just another example of the potentially positive consequences of his actions. "Some lucky kid has already entered early retirement," he said. He then added that he has already received countless text messages from college students congratulating him and informing him that they had renamed their bongs after him. "My favorite was sent by this guy from the University of Mexico. He named his bong 'Miguel Phelps.' That's my name in Spanish..." he said, wiping away a tear.
Of course, there are those in the U.S. that see storm clouds on the horizon for Phelps. Some of Michael's close friends worry that his behavior will not be looked upon favorably by the American public: "His mom is going to be so pissed," said Trent Albert, Phelps's tutor at the University of Michigan during his sophomore year. "And beyond that I'm worried about how history will remember him. Is there a Swimming Hall of Fame? No? Oh, there is? Well, I'm not sure if marijuana is considered a performance-enhancing drug or not, but I would hate to see Michael's name have an asterisk next to it in the record books because of his bong attack."
The world may simply not be ready for the kind of charity Michael Phelps has displayed in the last week. Unfortunately, there are many stigma still attached to marijuana and the bongs it fills, so there's no telling how the world will react to the Olympian's vicious bong hits and subsequent apology. No good deed goes unpunished. But we can all rest assured that no matter what the young swimmer goes on to accomplish in the next few years, there's no doubt that it will be pure gold.
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