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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Michael Phelps is Owed an Apology

    It’s good to see that even in the harshest of days, we can still find the time to berate others for actions that aren’t any of our business. Wars, the economy, political unrest can all step aside. After all, how much can we fret about trillions of dollars in new government spending?

    Cultural news is interesting and important, but there are rational limitations. The recent report and photographic proof of Michael Phelps smoking marijuana is one of the most ridiculously blown out of proportion stories in recent years. The guy wanted to relax after putting his body through months of rigorous training and exercise and smashing all expectation by winning 14 gold medals in the summer Olympics. Can you blame him?

    People forget about the DUI he received several years ago. He apologized and the issue went away after a probationary period. Now there is talk that he might lose his endorsements. One has to wonder how his newfound fame would suffer if he was caught driving drunk again. Would the punishment and public outcry be as harsh?

    Phelps has done nothing wrong. This whole talk about him being morally mislead and setting a poor example is nonsense. The man’s job is to swim and win, not to be the standard-bearer for ethical behavior in this country. Who are we to judge what the man does in his spare time?

    Choosing to apply this high ethical standard would make hypocrites out of many of us; reports show that 42% of American adults have used marijuana at least once. Three elected presidents, supreme court justices, numerous successful businessmen, artists and professionals have admitted to smoking marijuana, but we can still seem to justify berating a tired, young, successful athlete, who has been declared an American hero, for experimenting.

    “Moralists” claim that his job is to set an example, particularly for children who aspire to the level of greatness and grandeur as Phelps. Outraged parents shout, “I don’t want my son and daughter to grow up being a pot head!” Of course, because whatever star athletes do, your kids must also.

    If Mr. Phelps marries an Irish woman, does that mean that all your swimming sons must marry only women from the emerald isle? What if he becomes a vegan, or decides to go on vacation to New Zealand? Does that mean that you and your children must follow his exact steps in order to emulate his swimming greatness?

    Granted, the companies endorsing him do have cause to end their contracts if they wish, if it’s written that this kind of behavior can terminate their deals. It’s ridiculous that they would but if it’s in ink, then it’s their right and responsibility to appease their customers. Phelps can pander to them all he wants, but it likely won’t alter their entrenched views of morality and marijuana and what they think athletes should be versus who they are.

    There’s so much wrong with “mainstream” America’s addiction to attacking marijuana that there’s not enough space in this issue to give a truly detailed argument. Regardless of what you think about the plant, the fact is that everything that Michael Phelps does shouldn’t affect public perception about him.

    It’d be one thing if he murdered, stole, or broke a law that actually hurt someone, but smoking a plant that has questionable negative effects – and certainly less than many other legal drugs – shouldn’t be what first comes to mind when we think of someone so accomplished. It is Michael Phelps who is owed an apology from the American public, and not the other way around.

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