Olympic snowboarder defends Phelps over pot shot | india | Hindustan Times
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Olympic snowboarder defends Phelps over pot shot

Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati leapt to the defense of US Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps, who is embroiled in a drugs scandal.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2009 10:58 IST

Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati leapt to the defense on Wednesday of US Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps, who is embroiled in a drugs scandal.

Phelps, 23, has apologised for "inappropriate behavior" after a British tabloid published a photo of him holding a bong, a device often used to smoke marijuana.

Rebagliati, himself the subject of a global drugs scandal in 1998, called publishing the Phelps photo "an invasion of his privacy," and said the worldwide media attention is an overreaction.

The photo ran in News of the World newspaper, which said it was shot at a party last November at the University of South Carolina, but did not say that Phelps was smoking marijuana.

Phelps holds the record for winning the most Olympic gold medals.

Rebagliati, 38, tested positive for marijuana after winning the world's first Olympic snowboarding competition at the 1998 winter games in Japan. He was temporarily stripped of his medal, which was later returned because marijuana was not a banned performance drug.

"Phelps was at a private party," Rebagliati told AFP in an email interview in Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia. "Young children look up to celebrities and there is a certain level of responsibility that goes along with being a celebrity.

"But celebrities are human too and deserve a private life," he said. "There should be a line drawn between when an athlete is out in a public forum and when he is in a private setting."