By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

February 24 - Michael Phelps (pictured) has been chosen as the first official Ambassador of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) despite being photographed last year taking drugs and being told by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge he had failed in his duty as a role model.

The swimmer, the most successful athlete in Olympic history having won 16 medals, including 14 gold, will support the Youth Games by encouraging the involvement of young people around the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said here. 

Phelps said: "The Youth Olympic Games is an excellent initiative, not only for the athletes competing, but also those who are inspired to get into sport and be more active.

"I am delighted that I have been given the opportunity to become the first official Ambassador of the Youth Olympic Games, and can’t wait to get working with the YOG team to promote the first event this summer."

Phelps, who won a record eight Olympic gold medals at the Games in Beijing 2008, was banned for three months last year by USA Swimming after he was photographed on the front page of the British tabloid newspaper News of the World smoking from a marijuana pipe.

At the time Phelps was condemned by Rogge, who said: "Michael Phelps had a duty to be a role model.

"It is not just enough to win eight medals.

"He has a role to play for youth.

"He has to be an example.

"He failed in that."

It was the second time that Phelps made unwanted headlines.

In November 2004, at the age of 19 and shortly after winning six gold medals at the Athens Olympics, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired the following month and was granted probation before judgment and ordered to serve 18 months' probation, fined $250 (£162), obligated to speak to high school students about drinking and driving and had to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) meeting.

Phelps narrowly avoided prosecution for the marijuana pipe following a police investigation.

But Rogge said that Phelps deserved a second chance after apologising and appears to have kept his word by appointing him to the high-profile role for the Games, which are due to be held for the first time in Singapore later this year and are open to athletes between the ages of 14 and 18.

The mission of the Games, which are Rogge's initiative, "is to inspire young people around the world to participate in sport and adopt and live by the Olympic values", the IOC claim.


Rogge said: "We are delighted that Michael is supporting our efforts to launch the Youth Olympic Games.

"Preparations for the inaugural edition in Singapore are on track, and the IOC is looking forward to welcoming 3,600 athletes to Singapore this summer."

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