Michael Phelps apologizes for photo, poor judgment

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Now that Michael Phelps has all but admitted he is the bong-sucking subject of this damning photograph first published by News of the World, we’re left to wonder exactly what kind of impact this scandal is going to have on his career.

The shining star of the Beijing Olympics didn’t challenge the authenticity of the photo and apologized for his behavior.

I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment, Phelps said. I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.

This is not Phelps’ first PR hit. In 2004, at the age of 19, he was arrested on drunken driving charges. And while right now it looks like there won’t be any suspension by the powers-that-be, Phelps stands to lose boatloads of endorsement dollars.

But, should he? Do you really care that Phelps allegedly engaged in an activity that so many world leaders and titans of industry dabbled in? Is his recreational marijuana use really that upsetting to you?

Last night we were inundated with commercials for beer during the Super Bowl. You may have even attended a soiree where people drank too much and got a little loose. Hell, it’s part of our culture as Americans.

But the disconnect of embracing drinking and drunkenness as a part of life while castigating marijuana use has always baffled me. It seems so arbitrary to categorize one mind-altering substance as fun and acceptable while frowning upon the other.

Now, I’m not saying that Phelps wasn’t stupid for being so brazen with his questionable actions. He’s got to know that the spotlight is always going to be on him. When you’re on top, everyone is just holding their breath waiting for you to fall. And I’m not advocating drug use as life-enriching activity. There are myriad risks and downsides — just like there are when abusing alcohol.

Considering Phelps’ previous brush with the law and his well-documented carousing habits, he’s never been the perfect role model. So what has really changed? Are you really looking at him differently since seeing this picture?

He apologized for his behavior, will probably take the bulk of the punishment in the form of reduced endorsements and will still be the greatest swimmer of all-time.

Warts and all.

***

Your turn:

  • What were your initial reactions when you saw the photo?
  • Does this affect Phelps’ legacy?
  • How has your view changed, if it has at all?
  • If the picture in question would have been a severely intoxicated Phelps, would there be the same type of uproar? Is this double standard fair?
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