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Phelps returns to pool

OLYMPIC champion Michael Phelps says it has been difficult coping with the fallout from a photo of him smoking from a marijuana pipe.

"It's something I am going to have to live with and something I'll have to grow from," Phelps said on Wednesday outside the pool where he trains in Baltimore, Marlyand. "I know with all of the mistakes I made, I learned from them and that is what I expect to do from this. By no means is it fun for me, by no means is it easy."

It was the first time Phelps, 23, publicly addressed the photo since issuing an apology on Sunday after it surfaced in a British tabloid over the weekend.

Wearing a black sweat suit and shaking off the remaining drops of water in his hair after a workout at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center, Phelps, the winner of eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, said the most important thing for him was being back in the pool training.

"I'm back to my routine, the thing I love, the thing I care about most," Phelps said. "To be able to get back in the water and get back to a normal schedule is what I am happy about most."

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, in November took over the operation of Meadowbrook and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where the swimmer began training at age 7.

Phelps declined to address the possibility of criminal charges and reiterated his desire to put this behind him.

"You know, it happens," he said. "When stupid things are (done), bad judgment is made and mistakes are made, it happens."

Despite the potentially damaging episode, world swimming's governing body FINA is backing Phelps, while the US Olympic Committee has contacted the embattled swimmer to help him avoid repeating a similar episode.

FINA said it has "confidence and admiration for a young champion that publicly apologized for his act."


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