SEE, IT SEEMS, in this day and age, somebody's always there with a camera when you decide to do something really stupid. If you're Joe College Student, the photos usually just end up on Facebook for your parents and potential employers to see.
If you're swim sensation Michael Phelps, the photos of you making sweet love to a bong full of "cannabis" (as the Brits say) merely end up in a Fleet Street tabloid or three.
And by the time this s***storm blows over, The Phelps may well want to once again indulge in something just a little stronger than Ovaltine.
Extra! Extra! Read all about the news of the stupid in the News of the World:
THIS is the astonishing picture which could destroy the career of the greatest competitor in Olympic history.SOMETHING TELLS ME Omaha just was handed a really, really strong bargaining position for getting repeat business in 2012 as the site for the Olympic swim trials. We may be the only city interested.
In our exclusive photo Michael Phelps, who won a record EIGHT gold medals for swimming at the Beijing games last summer, draws from a bong.
The glass pipes are generally used to smoke cannabis.
And after sporting chiefs announced laws which mean four-year bans for drug-taking, Phelps’ dreams of adding to his overall 14 gold medal tally at the 2012 games in London could already be OVER.
Those dreams seemed the last thing on his mind when he puffed from the bong during two days of partying with students last November, a quiet time in the swimming calendar when athletes would not expect to get tested for drugs.
One party-goer who witnessed the star’s behaviour told the News of the World: “He was out of control from the moment he got there.
“If he continues to party like that I’d be amazed if he ever won any more medals again.”
Phelps’ aides went into a panic over our story and offered us a raft of extraordinary incentives not to run the bong picture.
It was on November 6, weeks after his Beijing triumph, that 23-year-old Phelps surprised students at the University Of South Carolina in Columbia by showing up unannounced at a house party.
He was visiting Jordan Matthews, a girl he was secretly seeing who was a student there.
Our source revealed: “Michael came to visit Jordan but ended up just getting wasted every night.
The US Olympics Committee, who have pledged to clamp down on drug use, refused to comment, as did USA Swimming and Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman.
More surprising still was the World Anti-Doping Agency’s refusal to comment, given that they introduced the four-year ban on sport’s drug users.
Phelps, who earned £4million last year in endorsements, has resumed training for the 2012 games.
But there were fears about his commitment when, weeks after the bong incident, he began dating former stripper Caroline Pal.
Phelps is represented by marketing giant Octagon, which works with huge brands such as Mastercard and HSBC. They admitted proven cannabis use would be “a major taint” on Phelps’ character.
Spokesman Clifford Bloxham offered us an extraordinary deal not to publish our story, saying Phelps would become our columnist for three years, host events and get his sponsors to advertise with us.
In return, he asked that we kill Phelps’ bong picture. Bloxham said: “It’s seeing if something potentially very negative for Michael could turn into something very positive for the News of the World.”
So, who's U.S. swimming's next great