In defense of Michael Phelps

This summer I was riveted by the Olympics and Michael Phelps’ run at eight gold medals. But it wasn’t just because of the medals, and how difficult that was to accomplish.

I was drawn to him this summer, as I was four years ago, because of his past history with ADHD. I read somewhere this summer that at age 11, he was on Ritalin three times a day. Having an ADHD kid of my own, do you have any idea how freakin’ hyper a kid has to be to be on that much Ritalin? And they ain’t just handin’ Ritalin out for shits and giggles! Phelps discovered that swimming helped him focus, that he could channel his hyperkinetic energy into something he was really successful at.

And successful he became. He is a hero to my two sons. A knows what he did and what it means; J thinks he’s cool because A does.

So when Michael Phelps screwed up big time smoking from a bong and getting caught by a camera, I prepared myself for the questions. None have come, though I’m still expecting them.

I have never smoked pot. I’ve never so much as smoked a cigarette. Yeah, I’m a cube; square on six sides. I drank extremely rarely when underage. Hell, I barely drank until I had kids (I’m not kidding here…and yes, I do have a glass of wine at my side right now, thanks for asking). But I think the world getting its panties in a bunch over this is ridiculous. He did it, yes, the picture is there to prove it. He apologized and didn’t insult our intelligence by claiming he didn’t inhale or didn’t enjoy it. In my opinion, that should be the end of it. I also think it’s freaking insane that marijuana is still illegal, but that’s just me.

But today Kellogg’s dropped Phelps as a sponsor, he has been suspended from competition for three months, and the buzzards are circling.

I still consider him a role model for my sons.

I’m sure many people just spewed their beverage of choice across their monitors. What? You want a druggie as a role model? Hell yeah I do. Him, not the crack whore down the street (no, there’s no crack whore down the street, figure of speech. Geeze). He overcame ADHD to achieve the highest level of his chosen career. He is good to his mother. He obviously values hard work, knows how to set and achieve goals, and is a team player. He screwed up and admitted his mistake (people, if I can teach my sons one thing other than compassion, I want it to be how to screw up, admit the mistake, learn from it, and move on).

Aren’t those the values we want our children to learn?

But, Jen, what about the drugs?

It’s an opportunity to talk about doing drugs, to give your kids your input on them (before they try them and don’t kid yourself, they probably will), and explain that Phelps is human, he’s young, he screwed up, and he’s going to learn from it and never do it again.

I’m sad that Phelps will probably lose more endorsement deals over this, when I would be so encouraged by a sponsor standing by him and working with him to teach kids about screwing up and learning from it. He has everything to lose, and I’m afraid he will. There aren’t many young role models out there for young boys, and I’m heartbroken that the one my sons adore will be shunned because of a youthful screw up.