Amanda Beard Denies Dating Michael Phelps – But Says He's Not 'Nasty'

08/20/2008 at 09:40 AM EDT

Amanda Beard Denies Dating Michael Phelps – But Says He's Not 'Nasty'
Olympic swimmers Amanda Beard (left) and Michael Phelps
Chris Ivin/WireImage; Al Bello/Getty
Olympic swimmer and model Amanda Beard swears she was just joking around Tuesday when she went on the air with 93.7 KRQ Tucson's Johnjay and Rich in the Morning. Familiar with the crew, she mock-suffered through questions about her romantic life, specifically rumors that she's dating Beijing Games hero Michael Phelps.

Asked point blank what their status was, Beard stated, "I am not dating Michael Phelps." When pressed on whether they'd ever kissed, the 26-year-old used her best Valley Girl delivery to say, "Eww! No. Come on." Then, when told that Phelps might dream about dating her, she replied, "Eww, that's so nasty! ... Come on, I have really good taste."

Now Beard is catching flak for her flippancy – and she wants to set the record straight. "Everyone who knows me knows I can be a jokester, but I guess I took it too far," the four-time Olympian tells PEOPLE. "I never meant to say anything rude about Michael. I am 100-percent sorry for what I said. I take full responsibility for it."

Beard, speaking earnestly, adds, "When we are sitting in the stands, we are very grateful that Michael swims for the U.S. It's cool to be a part of the team on which Michael won eight gold medals. We know each other and Michael is like my little brother. He jokes around me all the time and it's all good-natured. But obviously people who don't know me can take it the wrong way."

For Phelps's part, the 23-year told Extra that he has a celebrity crush on Cameron Diaz and insisted, "No, I'm not dating Amanda Beard. I'll say that. I think she has a boyfriend."

He would be right: Beard has been dating a photographer for the past three years. "He's been here [at the Olympics] – he's always with me," she says of her boyfriend. "He's totally fine with [the romance rumors]. This is just the way things go sometimes. But to Michael, I am so sorry for the things I said."

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