Restaurant chain Subway is still counting on Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps
's power as a pitchman, despite the uproar over a photograph of him with a marijuana pipe, Advertising Age reported.
"Like most Americans, and like Michael Phelps
himself, we were disappointed in his behavior," Subway, which specializes in sandwiches, said in a statement.
"Also like most Americans, we accept his apology. Moving forward, he remains in our plans."
In an article posted on website AdAge.com, the industry journal cited "executives close to the matter" as saying a campaign featuring Phelps and slated for early 2009 would be delayed.
However a spokeswoman for Subway couldn't confirm such a change, noting that the firm's statement on the Phelps affair gave no indication of such a move.
Phelps, who won an unprecedented eight gold medals at the Beijing Games to take his career total of Olympic titles to 14, has been the subject of less welcome scrutiny since Sunday, when the British tabloid News of the World published a photograph of him with his lips pressed to a glass pipe of the kind used to smoke marijuana.
The newspaper said the photo was taken at a university party in South Carolina in November.
Phelps, 23, has apologized for using "bad judgment" and letting down his legion of fans, but his remorse wasn't sufficient to prevent USA Swimming from rapping his knuckles with a three-month ban from competition.
"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," the national federation said Thursday in announcing the ban, which will last until May.
On Thursday, US food company Kellogg's said it would not renew its endorsement deal with the Olympian when it expires at the end of February, saying Phelps's behavior wasn't "consistent with the image of Kellog."
Other Phelps sponsors, including apparel manufacturer Speedo and watchmaker Omega, have expressed support for the swimmer.
It's not the first time Phelps has had to polish his image. In 2004, after he won six gold medals and two bronze at the Athens Olympics, the 19-year-old Phelps pleaded guilty to drunken driving and received 18 months probation.