Over the last few days there have been a lot of reports in the news of “shamed” and “disgraced’ swimmer Michael Phelp’s return to the pool at a meet in North Carolina.
Now I don’t usually watch a lot of television...and to be honest I have been watching the news less and less over the years. Let’s face it – the context is so negative. I guess we need and want to know, on a primal level what constitutes a threat to us, but like many things that are imperative to survival (like the stress response and eating) this is an urge we now take to the extreme.
This particular issue makes me laugh...
One report last night showed a ‘staunch supporter’ of Michael Phelps on the brink of tears, with her young daughter in tow, proclaiming that “we all make mistakes” and that “everyone deserves a second chance.” And while I congratulate her spirit of forgiveness, my question is “why do we need to forgive Michael Phelps?” The guy has done NOTHING wrong!
OK...he did break the law. That’s a given, and yes he also went outside the rules of the sport he is involved in, one in which, in line with IOC regulations prohibits the use of marijuana. BUT my question is more of a pragmatic than a pedantic one.
Michael Phelps was photographed doing something that over ½ of us admit to have done (the total usage figures could be much higher), that many people do regularly, and that in the opinions of many medical and health experts poses little if any risk to long term health. Now I am not talking about extreme use here – the debates on the merits or risks of heavy marijuana use can be debated until the cows come home, and I am not in favour of indiscriminate use or abuse of ANY substance (including caffeine, sugar or anything else for that matter.)
But occasional use of marijuana (in this humble mans opinion) is no more dangerous than the occasional beer or wine, both of which are legal, socially engrained and in many sporting cultures, tacitly approved.
So of course he was censured – that is the obvious course of action when someone has transgressed against the laws of the nation and the laws of the sport (although of course no criminal charges were brought or are going to be.) That much I can understand.
But has he been shamed? Has he been disgraced?
Not in my book.
The reality is that Michael Phelps is one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known. He succeeded in the hardest forum of competition in his sport over and over again and at the end of the day after beating the best the world had to throw at him he relaxed with a bong, took a big toke and no doubt relaxed and thought “Job well done!”
Something men across the world are doing after a hard day’s work in the same way...or with a can of beer.
A more interesting topic is perhaps whether he also smoked pot at times in his lead up to the games, or in the years previous? If he had it begs the question: “Does pot really affect motivation and physical and mental performance?”
Some of you reading this might say “Well if he hadn’t smoked pot he could have been even better!” And of course that might be true – I doubt it, but in any instance the answer is something we’ll never know. But many of his staunchest critics in the aftermath have not excelled to anywhere near the degree that he has – so what’s their excuse?
I personally know many, many elite level athletes who use marijuana occasionally as a means of relaxation (without the hangover and systemic effects of alcohol) as well as leaders of industry, media personalities, celebrities, and entrepreneurs of great success who also imbibe from time to time.
I guess Michael Phelps has joined the ranks of the elite who have admitted to, or been found to have smoked pot including US Presidents, even if they can’t figure out how to inhale! (on a side note I wonder about the ability of a man to run the most powerful country in the world if he can’t even figure out how to smoke a joint properly!), musicians (Louis Armstrong, the Beatles to name a few) as well as the revered martial artist Bruce Lee, and most influential bodybuilder...and now leader of the world’s 5th largest economy...that’s right, the Governator himself – Arnold Schwarzenegger!
After all that....Is pot still illegal?!!....