A South Carolina sheriff said Monday he was not going to charge swimmer Michael Phelps after a photo of the 14-time Olympic gold medalist showed him smoking from a marijuana pipe.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said during a news conference that he didn't have enough physical evidence to charge the swimmer, but he defended his investigation.
"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.
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."
The photo showed Phelps smoking from a marijuana pipe at a party in November when he visited the University of South Carolina. Lott said he seized the marijuana pipe, known as a bong, that was in the photo but couldn't prove Phelps had smoked from it.
"We had a photo and him saying he was sorry for inappropriate behavior. He never said, 'I smoked marijuana.' We didn't have physical evidence," Lott said.
Holding a bong is not a crime, he said.
"They're sold in stores. We're kind of sending a double message," Lott said. "You can buy rolling papers at any convenience store in the world, but we're telling kids not to smoke dope."
USA Swimming suspended Phelps for three months after the photo was published, and Kellogg Co. said it would not renew its endorsement deal with him.
The sheriff's office said eight people were arrested during the investigation. Seven have been charged with simple possession of marijuana, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail or a $575 fine. Another person was arrested on suspicion of driving with a suspended license.
Southern Mississippi running back Damion Fletcher, the school's all-time leading rusher, is charged with firing at least one gunshot while at an apartment complex at Hattiesburg, Miss., and another player faces a marijuana possession charge.
Police spokesman Synarus Green said Brennan Houston was booked on a marijuana possession charge, stemming from the same incident. Houston, a 22-year-old senior, is a Southern Mississippi offensive lineman. Fletcher, a 21-year-old senior, has 4,287 yards rushing. He ran for 1,313 and 10 touchdowns last season.
Jaguars release running back Taylor
The Jacksonville Jaguars released running back Fred Taylor, parting ways with their all-time leading rusher after 11 seasons and continuing the team's off-season makeover.
Coach Jack Del Rio flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to meet with Taylor and deliver the news. Del Rio made it clear the team has no plans to re-sign Taylor, who turned 33 last month and was scheduled to make $6 million next season.
Taylor was not available for comment.
Last season, Taylor finished with 556 yards rushing and averaged a career-low 3.9 yards per carry.
The Cincinnati Bengals tagged kicker Shayne Graham as their franchise player, a move that gives the eight-year veteran the option to sign a one-year deal for a salary equal to the average of the five highest-paid kickers last season.
It also saves the Bengals a bunch of money.
The value of the franchise tag for kickers in 2009 is a salary of $2.48 million. If the team had named T.J. Houshmandzadeh as its franchise player, as many observers expected, the cost to designate a wide receiver jumps to $9.88 million.
The Baltimore Ravens released cornerback Chris McAlister, a 10-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowl player.
Galaxy to play Japanese team
League champions from China and South Korea, and the holder of Japan's league cup, will join the Galaxy in the Pan-Pacific championship for two soccer doubleheaders starting Wednesday at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
South Korea's Suwon Bluewings will face China's Shandong Luneng in Wednesday night's first game, followed by the game between the Galaxy and Japan's Oita Trinita.
The losers will meet in Sunday night's third-place game, with the winners playing later for the championship.
The Montreal Canadiens acquired defenseman Mathieu Schneider from the Atlanta Thrashers for two draft picks. Schneider began his career with Montreal and helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1993.