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.

9 Responses

  1. it seems ridiculous that Michael Phelps is getting so much flak from this supposed marijuana scandal… Since when have we taken the reporting of trashy tabloids so seriously?

  2. I really feel for him. I haven’t read much about it but who took the pic? A friend?

    Poor bastard.

  3. I’ve been having some interesting conversations with friends over this issue. Personally, I think it is hypocritical for the government to approve, regulate and tax some drugs (alcohol, caffeine, tobacco) while prohibiting others and prosecuting their consumption. When you profit from drug income (liquor taxes are just that) you’ve got very little business sitting on a high horse. On the other hand, much of what Phelps did was really stupid. He went to a party off campus in a college town. I wonder how many facebook and myspace pictures there are of him circulating out there from people snapping cell phone images? He’s got to know that he is BIG news where ever he goes and what ever he does. Every time he shows up at a major sporting event, the cameras show us his face and the announcers note “and there is Olympic champion Michael Phelps sitting in the owner’s box with blah, blah, blah…” He knows that his every move is documented by somebody with a camera. Taking a bong hit at a party (not in a closed bedroom at a party) was just stupid. And with those lungs, I’d hate to be the person who supplied that hit. Damn. Fifty bucks a pop to fill those lungs, I bet. So, it was stupid all around on his part. I don’t blame the photographer or who ever it was who convinced that person to sell to a tabloid. This one’s on Phelps. He has done the right thing and admitted his mistake and will now take his lumps. I think the sponsors at this point (what with the economy and all) are looking for an excuse to get out of zillion-dollar contracts and this provided a nice, easy, out for them. That’s too bad. Phelps will be ok. He’ll screw up again, and with any luck he’ll learn from that, too. Your boys could have much worse role models, that’s for sure.

  4. I am at least as square as you are-never done a drug in my life, never felt the need.

    But, you know what, this is a twenty-something year old KID. A kid who has lived quite gracefully under pressure that most adults would have crumbled beneath.

    He made a mistake, he owned up to it, he accepted whatever consequences his actions might bring and he has done it all without ever once blaming his fame, society, his parents, the dog-catcher or anyone else and there are not a lot of kids these days who would do the same.

    He’s still a role model in my book and, I hate Kellogg’s cornflakes, anyway.

  5. I heard the story and thought, “Yup, he’s got ADHD.” Isn’t that horrible to think that? (You don’t have to tell me. It is. I’m going to work on it.)

    What I don’t get is why he has to be the poster child for ADHD? That’s a huge responsibility to put on someone.

    Maybe it’s because E-Niner (my son with ADHD) wasn’t interested in the Olympics that I wasn’t too hung up on Michael Phelps having ADHD. Michael Jordan has ADHD. “AP All Day” has ADHD — as you can probably tell from the nickname his mother gave him. Lots of professional players who bring down the bank have ADHD. Michael Phelps ins’t the only game in town.

    Too bad the kid does drugs. Too bad he got caught. But I don’t blame anyone for pulling the endorsements. I’m sure it was in his contracts. It’s called consequences.

  6. He made a dumb mistake but I’m such a gossipy-geek that I want to know who the jerk was that took his picture! I just can’t imagine what it must be like to be this college kid that’s basically a superstar Olympian. Everyone knows you, but yet, you are still this kid at a college party.

    I’ve never done drugs. Never even seen them, except on TV. Of course, I don’t condone his actions but I just liked the fact that he admitted from the start that it really was him in that photo. I didn’t know he had a DUI a few years before so I hope he realizes how much he is in the spotlight now.

    He’s got a bright future ahead of him. He just needs to be really aware of the choices he makes.

  7. BTW, I hope my comment didn’t sound too crabby. I’m sure it sounded crabby. Migraine headache right now.

  8. First as you said I can’t believe that marijuana is still illegal either. Second Micheal hasn’t been in regular training for awhile and without that focus do you think that he might have taken the hit to calm himself that is the effect that it has, yes I did inhale, so I know this. I think thought that if I were him and going to toke I would do it privately NOT at a college party were EVERYONE has a camera phone.

  9. […] feel like I’m in such a good, positive space right now, save the super crabby comment I left on Jen’s site the other day. (Sorry […]

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