Chickens Come Home to Roost for Michael Phelps

February 5, 2009

Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps Advertisement on Kellogg's Corn Flakes Cereal Box

Some of the chickens came home to roost for Olympic athlete and swimmer Michael Phelps today, after a recent photo surfaced of him smoking marijuana at a Columbia, SC party. Kellogg & Co. has decided not to renew the athlete’s advertising contract. Company spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz said: “Michael’s most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg…His contract expires at the end of February, and we have made a decision not to extend his contract.” Kellogg’s, the first company to drop Phelps as an advertising spokesman in the wake of the pot picture, had featured Phelps on its Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes cereal boxes. The value of the Kellogg’s endorsement is not known, although it’s believed that Phelps’s lifetime earnings from endorsements could reach $100 million.

Gabby Wasson, 4, Waits for Michael Phelps as Maryland Olympians Parade Down York Road in Towson, Maryland after the Beijing Olympics

More bad news came later in the day. Although the International Olympic Committee accepted Phelps’ apology for the partying behavior, USA Swimming, which governs U.S. competitive swimming, barred Phelps — the winner of 14 gold medals — from swimming competitively for three months and withdrew financial support for the swimmer during the period of the “reprimand.” In a written statement, USA swimming said: “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.”

Interestingly, the “Baltimore Bullet,” as Phelps is also known, was one of 12 Olympic athletes who pledged last year to “My Victory,” a program launched by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to help keep competitive sports clean. Phelps’ picture and profile have been removed from the My Victory website. And then there were 11.

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Photo credit: Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun

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