USA Swimming hands Phelps suspension

Published 1:58 am Friday, February 6, 2009

Michael Phelps’ day grew lousier by the hour on Thursday.

First he lost a major sponsor, then he got suspended.

The Olympic great was suspended from competition for three months by USA Swimming, the latest fallout from a photo that showed him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

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The sport’s national governing body also cut off its financial support to Phelps for the same three-month period, effective immediately.

‘‘This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero,’’ the Colorado Springs-based federation said in a statement.

‘‘Michael has voluntarily accepted this reprimand and has committed to earn back our trust.’’

Phelps won a record eight gold medals in Beijing and returned to America as one of the world’s most acclaimed athletes. He made headlines of a different kind, however, in the wake of the photo, published Sunday by News of the World, a British tabloid.

Earlier Thursday, cereal and snack maker Kellogg Co. announced it wouldn’t renew its sponsorship contract with Phelps, saying his behavior is ‘‘not consistent with the image of Kellogg.’’ The swimmer appeared on the company’s cereal boxes after his Olympic triumph.