The saga of the November pot party in Columbia involving Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps is apparently now history. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says there is not enough evidence to prosecute anyone at the party Phelps attended. A photo taken at the party showed Phelps smoking marijuana from a bong. Lott says the bong is being kept in evidence by the sheriff’s office. As for the photo Lott says it was sold to a British tabloid for $100,000. Lott says he and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department were put into a “no-win” situation when news of the Phelps’ photo broke. Lott says he was watching the Super Bowl when news of the photo was broadcast–and as he digested the news involving Phelps and the November party, his duty was clear.
“Michael Phelps is truly an American hero. I, along with the rest of America cheered his victories, felt pride when he stood on the podium and got his medals. But even with his star status, he is still obligated to obey the laws of our state. He is not immune from his responsibilities to do what is right, he is also human and can make mistakes.
Lott says he would have been perceived as a hypocrite and would have been sending a message of tolerance and condoning the use of illegal drugs. Lott says the eight persons previously arrested in the case will be charged because they were in possession of drugs at the time of their arrests.
Lott says he investigated the case involving Phelps because, “I took an obligation in my oath as sheriff to enforce the law equally and fairly without any personal bias or prejudice; but Michael Phelps, I had to remove his medals, his hero status, and look at him as any other person. I felt it important that he be treated fairly and equally and that a message be conveyed that illegal drug use is illegal by anyone.”
Lott says Michael Phelps and he agree that hopefully something positive will come out of this situation. He hopes Phelps will use this experience to teach youngsters to steer clear of drugs and he has no problem with the Olympic swimmer visiting the Columbia area in the future.
“He’s welcome back. As long as he doesn’t make a mistake and use drugs or break the law in any other way. He’s welcome back just like anyone else is welcome back here,” according to Lott.
Lott says contrary to what critics may say, no time or resources were wasted in the investigation of the case, which includes about 25 man hours by a drug investigation team was spent in the investigation.
Lott says “this is not a special investigation or one that impacted our resources on any other crimes. This was in fact a short investigation and a simple investigation conducted by narcotics investigators who sole responsibility is to investigate drug violations. The time and resources were quite minimal when compared to other drug investigations. At the time this investigation was being conducted, we solved a murder, ATM robberies, and other numerous crimes.”