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Phelps' Mistake Will Cost Him

Monday, 2 Feb 2009 | 12:25 AM ET

We are a world that likes to build people up and then is ready to tear them down.

When athletes are torn down because of a mistake in their personal life, we only forget thanks to their sporting excellence.

Michael Phelps inhales from a bong
Source: News of the World
Michael Phelps inhales from a bong

It is fine to have people who have made the greatest misjudgments on your team, if they help you win.

And with that, we come to Olympian Michael Phelps, who admitted to smoking pot after News Of The World published a photo of him with a bong in hand.

The positive?

He got pushed off the front page of the sports section due to a tremendous Super Bowl and a five-setter in the Australian Open final between Federer and Nadal.

His biggest problem? Phelps can't do anything of substance in the pool until 2012. He's not allowed to redeem himself in the traditional way athletes have -- in sport excellence.

Sure we, and his sponsors for that matter, were all able to forget the last time Phelps got in trouble -- three months after Athens when he was nailed for a DUI.

The reason for this is because, even with six gold medals, he simply fell off the map like all Olympians do in non-Olympic years. His sponsors didn't need to start activating until a year before Beijing.

But with Phelps' greatness in Beijing -- and the record of eight golds -- now means that his contracts with sponsors are too big for them not to use him as a transcendent star.

Speedo, whose contract with Phelps runs through 2009, will have to use him in 2010 and 2011 in order to make sense of the price they'll be asked to pay for renewal.

Visa can't afford to sit out a year until the bud buzz dies down.

PureSport, an upstart sports drink, which recently signed Phelps, also can't wait until the negative energy is over. They have to sell drinks now in order to begin the tremendous uphill climb against the powerhouse that is Pepsi (Gatorade) and Coca-Cola (PowerADE and Vitaminwater).

I'd be surprised if any of Phelps' sponsors dumped him because of this transgression. For their part, Speedo said Sunday, in a statement that "Phelps is a valued member of the Speedo team and a great champion."

But that doesn't mean Phelps hasn't hurt himself.

As if what is happening in corporate America isn't enough, those willing to pay for a Phelps speech or an appearance can now take at least $25,000 off the asking price from last week.

In his apology on Sunday, Phelps mentioned his age as a possible reason for his mistake. He was actually too young last time -- as his DUI came before he was even of legal drinking age.

When he was pulled over, Phelps reportedly told the cop he was "just scared because I have a lot to lose."

Somehow I think he lost more in potential income this time around.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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