Richland County Sheriff LEON LOTT:
“I had nothing to do with Michael Phelps coming to Columbia and making a bad decision. He did that. His bad decision and the highly published photo placed me and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in a no win situation. Ignore it and be criticized or address it and be criticized. I chose to do what was right. While to some it may not have been the most popular decision, it was and is the right decision because of the law and the negative impact it could have on our children in Richland County.
Michael Phelps is truly an American sports hero. I, along with the rest of America, cheered his victories and felt pride when he stood on the podium to receive his medals.
Even with his star status he is still obligated to obey the laws of our state. He is not immune from his responsibilities to do what is right. He is also human and can make a mistake.
I took an obligation in my oath as Sheriff to enforce the law equally and fairly without any personal bias or prejudice.
With Michael Phelps I had to remove his medals, his hero status, and look at him as any other person.
I felt it was important that he be treated fairly, equally and that a message be conveyed that illegal drug use is illegal by anyone.
Our investigation focused on the possession, use and distribution of illegal drugs in Richland County. The incident in November only initiated our investigation, which resulted in the arrests of adults who were at the time of their arrests in possession of illegal drugs. Contrary to some, this was not a special investigation or one that impacted our resources on other crimes. This was in fact a short investigation and simple investigation conducted by narcotics investigators whose sole responsibility is to investigate drug violations. The time and resources were quite minimal when compared to other drug investigations. In the time this investigation was being conducted we solved a murder, ATM robberies and numerous other crimes. Continue reading