Message to Michael Phelps: Let it Rip

February 24, 2009

Michael Phelps has been roundly criticized by many people after a photo was discovered that appears to show him smoking marijuana on a college campus. Phelps made the requisite apology, but this was not enough for some people. Other people constantly raised this incident in conjunction with a prior DUI convinction of Phelps several years ago.

Some in the sports media have talked about the shameful example he sends to children as a result of this behavior. Others have been less harsh, merely criticizing Phelps for betraying the corporate masters who have given him millions in endorsements. To that end, Kellog's has dropped Phelps since the incident.

Unfortunately, too few people have pointed out what should by now be an obvious truth: Michael Phelps did nothing morally wrong. Did he break the law? Sure, but it's a stupid law. Who really cares? If it does bother you that a law was broken, I believe you should just chill out and treat it as if he was guilty of a minor traffic violation. I am one of the many Americans who simply don't view this as a moral issue. This is a personal decision as long as you don't get on the road.

It is interesting to note that Phelps is guilty of smoking marijuana at a college party. Colleges, our places for higher learning, are often filled with parties where marijuana is smoked. Thus, many of the most educated members of society have smoked marijuana or associated with people who do and yet we are told that this behavior will lead to ruin and demise. Even our current president has admitted to engaging in drug use in his youth as well.

Phelps himself is a perfect example of someone who does not let the smoking of marijuana affect his larger ambitions. When training he swims nearly 10 hours per day and his 8 gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games is a legendary achievement. What more do you want from him?

Additionally, I couldn't care less that his behavior offends some of his corporate sponsors.

I am not denying that corporations have a right to withdraw their support of Phelps (although most have stood by him). They have every right to make that decision. What I don't believe is that they have a right to judge Phelps. Corporations are typically guilty of far more serious and meaningful abuses than anything Phelps has done. For example, harming the environment, abusing or taking advantage of workers throughout the world, wasting public funds, deceiving investors, and improperly influencing the government and the media, to name just a few.

It is also extremely disappointing that most in the sports media have not evolved with the times. In the post-1960's era we should be beyond heavy judgments related to the use of marijuana, especially when we have ample evidence to suggest that it is not negatively impacting an individual's life.

In a perfect world Phelps would tell his sponsors and sports fans to just accept him as he is and make no apology whatsoever. However, in our world where a fictional corporate "image" is all-important, I understand that Phelps has to say what he needs to just for the money. His apology apparently will be good enough to get him off the hook with most of his sponsors and many people in the long run.

But to add just one more thought, think about this. Phelps is a young man who was raised by a single mother, loves hip-hop and gangsta rap, and smokes weed. Good thing he still has that "intangible" quality that sponsors love.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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