Ban on Michael Phelps – A Bit too Harsh?
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Ban on Michael Phelps – A Bit too Harsh?

Columbia : CA : USA | Feb 08, 2009 at 3:40 PM PST
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Marijuana & Michael - making news!

Oh, the price one has to pay for being a celebrity!!

The swimmer who has won more Olympic golds than anyone else in history has been handed over a three month ban by USA Swimming for breach of its Code of Conduct. The punishment meted out to Michael Phelps would mean that the swimmer will be out of action for a three month period beginning Feb. 5, 2009. Further he would not be eligible for any financial support during this period.

The ban came after Phelps went public and acknowledged his transgression and admitted to being involved in "regrettable" behavior which resulted in he making a "bad judgment." A photograph of the swimmer allegedly smoking marijuana from a bong pipe that made it to the media had lead to his public apology and later the 3 month ban.

I think, the ban though was uncalled for as marijuana is considered a banned drug ‘in-competition’ only. Moreover, the athlete had gone ahead and accepted his mistake. Under the circumstances if Phelps were to be impeached he needed to be impeached for a higher transgression than for being caught on camera while ‘trying out’ an innocent puff. Higher transgressions would be those where sufficient evidence is available to indict for distribution, supply or possession of the banned substance.

The queries that come up naturally then are: Has Phelps been found to be guilty of distributing, supplying or possessing marijuana/cannabis? If not, why the ban? Especially, since the act of smoking was not in the “in-competition” mode.

An official statement of USA Swimming made on its website acknowledges that the anti-doping rule has not been violated. Clearly, the official authority is on a moral high ground when it states that the ban has come in lieu of Michael “disappointing a lot of people, particularly the USA Swimming member kids for whom he is a hero and a role model”.

Lofty words. But how far are they true? Are there any statistics to back them? How do the kids decide what is right or what is wrong? Are they capable of deciding on their own? If not, who decides for them?

As far as my observation goes, public support for Michael Phelps has been phenomenal, be it in response to the apology posted on his Facebook page or in the numerous online forums or discussions or chat rooms. If the decision to ban is not to the liking of Michael Phelps’ innocent fans, then such a decision is unfair and uncalled for.

The public of today (including kids) is quite knowledgeable. They can see through their idols especially when the idols are put on a pedestal. If the public has pardoned its hero, USA Swimming has no right banning Michael Phelps. It will only need to revoke its decision.

For, it’s okay to reprimand someone verbally or even in writing, it’s okay to lampoon a star, it’s okay to conduct an enquiry, it’s okay to bring the culprit to book; but it’s not okay to punish somebody for an offence that he has not committed. For, a ‘one-off’ smoke outside of competition mode cannot be treated as a crime.

Common sense dictates that a habitual smoker of pot would not indulge in an emotion such as ‘regret’ and tender an apology for his action. That Phelps accepted his mistake is an indication that in all probability the transgression was a one-off occurrence.

Is US Swimming not aware of the fact that Phelps never ever failed a drug test throughout his career and that he is one of those athletes who always volunteered for additional testing if only to dispel any thoughts of he benefiting from the use of performance enhancing steroids.

Given all this, if not proven guilty Michael Phelps should not be punished. He should be allowed to get on with his practice sessions in preparation of the Austin Grand Prix coming up in March. Otherwise the act of banning him might harm his fans as much as it harms the swimmer himself.

Before I end, a little statistic would not be out of place. Despite US Congress expending billions of dollars on drug enforcement activities, the probability of an average American having experimented with marijuana is twice as high as an average citizen of the Netherlands, a country where smoking marijuana is legal. Why is that so? And what is being done to improve the situation if not working at total elimination of the drug-scourge from the fabric of America!!

Please give this a thought …

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myVox is based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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    This seems loosely related to the "outcry" over Michael Phelps' pot smoking to me. Why can't someone just come out, look directly into the camera and say "No one is perfect and we really ought to stop pretending that our politicans, athletes, .....

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