Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Olympic hero Michael Phelps gets dragged through the ‘weeds’

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Originally published on on Fri, 02/06/2009 – 11:00am

The last three presidents have admitted to smoking marijuana (Al Gore, too). The previous president’s life was saved by hemp (George H.W. Bush’s parachute in WWII was made from the plant). George Washington grew hemp.

The use of marijuana in these leaders was identified as youthful indiscretions (not to be confused with Henry Hyde’s affair in his 40s).

So now we have one of the most popular Americans, a true American hero, suffering significant damage — not from the plant itself — from using marijuana.

Michael Phelps lost a major sponsor (Kellogg’s), and got suspended from competition for three months by USA Swimming. The organization also cut off its financial support to Phelps for the same three-month period.

If there was some message that if you smoke pot, you can win 14 gold medals, that might not come across well. But does anyone really think this was anything more than an isolated incident?

Olympic athletes get drug tested all the time, much more than any regular person. We would know if Phelps had an issue with marijuana use.

Some of the problem is linked to the preponderance of cameras at parties these days. Cellphone cameras, flip-cams, and regular tiny digital cameras are much more prevalent in the youth of today. We see more photographic evidence of what young people are up to. Imagine if we had pictures of George W. Bush during his “wilder” days.

We literally know that Phelps did this because someone took a picture. Things such as this happened 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, but without as much evidence.

Allowing our young people to get “indiscretions” out of their system in their youth makes them better people in the long-term. President Obama’s youthful drug use allows him to be more sympathetic to the horrors of the “war on drugs” we fight on our own citizens.

Phelps is still a hero, but as we have found out, he’s also a human being. This is a guy who works very hard to make him the hero we worship and put on cereal boxes. In a moment of discretion, a real human being at a party took a hit on a bong. And someone took a photo. It doesn’t change who he is, just some people’s perceptions of a person.

We know marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, yet the misguided “war on drugs” and our Puritanistic streak forces us to hide who we are. If Phelps had been caught with a drink, oh that’s right, he did plead guilty to drunken driving and got 18 months probation in 2004. Yet it seems like Phelps is being punished more for a bong hit than a DUI.

Let’s see if we have this straight: a Republican politician has an affair in his 40s (youthful indiscretion) and that’s okay; a prominent swimmer gets a DUI with no loss of sponsorship or suspension, and that’s okay; that same prominent swimmer lose a sponsor and get suspended for a picture of a bong hit (after winning 8 more gold medals in between), and that’s not okay. An American hero getting swept up in Puritanic hypocrisy: oh so sad.

picture of the “controversial” bong hit


Written by democracysoup

February 6, 2009 at 11:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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