COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina sheriff who investigated Michael Phelps after he was photographed smoking from a marijuana pipe is joking about the uproar it caused, but standing by his decision to probe the superstar swimmer.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott wore a bulletproof vest to guard against "pot shots" at a Rotary Club speech this week that combined good humor with a sober warning about illegal drugs.
"It doesn't matter if it's Michael Phelps or who it is. If you break the law, you've got to be held to the same standard," Lott said during the Monday speech. "That's what the law's all about."
In a video posted on The (Columbia) State newspaper's Web site, Lott responded point-by-point to much of the criticism he heard. In response to claims that he was going after Phelps for publicity, he said he turned down interview requests from Jay Leno, Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer and Larry King.
"If I wanted 15 minutes of fame, I could have got about 35 hours if I wanted to," he said. But, he decided, "This wasn't about publicity. This wasn't about me. It was about what was doing right."
Lott initially said he would look into the Olympic swimmer with 14 gold medals after a British tabloid published a picture of him smoking from a marijuana pipe at a party in Columbia last November. Last week, the sheriff announced there was not enough evidence to charge Phelps, who acknowledged using "bad judgment" after the photo appeared.