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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Michael Phelps smokes. So what?

If Halloween costumes are any indication of Michael Phelps’ accomplishments, the Olympic swimmer has earned the gold in providing easily assembled costumes for those who did not know what they were going as until Oct. 31. Phelps is a national hero, owning more gold medals than any other Olympian and swimming fast enough for seven world records. However, photographs of Phelps holding a bong at a party have tainted the man’s heroic image. Many have included Phelps’ driving under the influence charge, nearly five years old, with this unflattering picture as proof that the Olympian is another spoiled and decadent athlete. This overreaction results from America’s unrealistic expectations of its athletes, as Phelps’ only sin was behaving like an average 23-year-old.
Compared with the stock of American athletes, Phelps’ behavior can hardly be viewed as extreme. Evidence from a 2003 drug screening has emerged proving that Alex Rodriguez used steroids. Despite lying when first asked about his steroid use, Rodriguez was later open and honest about his use of performance enhancing drugs, admitting cheating to earn the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Though Rodriguez’s admission has been met thus far without penalty, Phelps has already lost his advertising contract with Kellogg’s and been barred from any kind of competition for several months.
Marijuana may be illegal, but other than its uncanny ability to make the last season of “That 70’s Show” funnier, it provides no competitive edge for the athlete. Neither is it considered a hard drug with the potential of ruining lives.
“He is only smoking weed,” said Chris May, a sophomore general studies major. “The man has more gold medals than fingers, he’s entitled to a little bit of partying.”
Phelps may have broken the law, but marijuana use is far more widespread than anti-drug commercials would have citizens believe. Statistics place the number of Americans who have tried marijuana once in their lives at around 50 percent. Even Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have admitted to dancing with Mary Jane in their youth, although the latter insists he never inhaled, enjoying marijuana instead for its rich, full body flavor. Clearly, being a midnight toker has very little effect on a person’s ability to become successful later in life.
The harsh criticism of Phelps seems to be a case of the pot saying very racist things to the kettle. Too many Americans are ready to crucify Phelps for indiscretions they committed at his age. Similar bong photos show up on countless Facebook or Myspace pages of commoners. Olympians such as Phelps deserve their place on a pedestal, with a little allowance for minor mistakes. Considering the negative qualities of other sport icons like A-Rod, Michael Vick or O.J. Simpson, America might want to remember that although Phelps broke the law, it is not as though he cheated or killed anything. We should give Phelps a pass for taking a victory lap.

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