At 23, Michael Phelps is one of the richest and most acclaimed young athletes this nation has produced. He was an incomparable swimmer in two Olympic Games and only the past summer won an unprecedented eight gold medals at one Olympics. He now has 14 Olympic golds and a lot of money because of his feats.
With such worldwide attention, admiration and wealth comes intense public scrutiny, and Phelps has had far more of that lately than he would prefer. He should have had better sense than to smoke marijuana in a situation where cell phone cameras and other communications devices were a dime a dozen. Phelps was caught apparently “imbibing” and the photo has been broadly circulated.
Bottom line, Phelps did a stupid thing and should be expected to pay whatever penalties accrue. He has apologized but he nonetheless was suspended from competitive swimming for three months and lost a lucrative endorsement contract with the Kellogg cereal firm. Admirers hope he has learned a vital lesson and that his “role model” status can soon be restored.
This is not the first indiscretion for Phelps. He’s had at least one illegal dealing with liquor in the past. Many say he’s only human and young and should not be dealt with too harshly. So far, the consequences of his behavior don’t seem overly harsh.
Contrition and admission will help his cause and if the famed swimmer stays out of future trouble and shows the kind of judgment that keeps him out of the public eye when he strays, all well and good. He needs to, for lack of a better term, “grow up,” the faster the better.
One of the most ludicrous consequences of the Phelps case is that so many advocates of marijuana use have surged to support the swimmer and have only succeeded in refocusing on his case and prolonging the media attention. Now, groups like Marijuana Policy Project are trying to make Kellogg the villain by promoting a boycott of Kellogg products, and contending that Phelps’ earlier innocent beer-drinking also could have caused a fatal accident.
Kellogg made no immediate reply and is wasting its time if it does. As for critics’ contention that pot is no more dangerous than beer, that makes little sense. Both can lead to lethal consequences. Kellogg should be praised rather than criticized for sending the proper message that the company won’t condone such behavior.
Phelps did a dumb thing, again, and had to realize there would be consequences. He is being penalized in various ways, including derision in the court of public opinion, and he should be. With glory and wealth come scrutiny and high expectations.