As of this morning, Michael Phelps has been chastised by the U.S. Olympic Committee, his sponsor Kellogg, USA Swimming, and a few of the more annoyingly puritan members of the media. Most egregious, however, is the rumor that Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County, where Phelps apparently took his bong rips, will press charges if it’s proven that a crime took place. Lott even says Phelps’ apology constitutes a “partial confession.”
Setting aside the fact that, depending on whose poll you read, roughly half the country has admitted to smoking weed at one time or another, this “crime” is, by a huge margin, the second-most dangerous youthful misstep that Phelps has taken in his public life; as far as role-model misdeeds go, driving under the influence trumps getting high at a party every time. And yet, unsurprisingly, the incident has sparked a sequence of self-righteousness and forced repentance not seen since Don Imus’ commentary on the Rutgers Women’s basketball team.
Kathleen Parker provided the most intelligent commentary on this non-issue I’ve yet read (barring Joe MacLeod), including the correct observation that “[w]ere Phelps to run for public office someday and admit to having smoked pot in his youth, he would be forgiven. Yet, in the present, we impose monstrous expectations on our heroes.” Parker notes that the list of reputable Americans who have admitted to smoking marijuana includes our current president.
I therefore propose that President Obama, who thankfully removed Clinton’s silly “I didn’t inhale” double-speak from our political discourse, nip this ridiculousness in the bud and preemptively pardon Phelps. We know from his memoirs that Obama’s done more heavy shit than Phelps anyway, and since his political plate’s too full to plausibly decriminalize marijuana in the near future, this would be an adequate refutation of the U.S.’s ridiculous policy on the drug for the time being.
Until then, here’s the message that our media’s treatment of Phelps sends to The Children: A professional athlete, even one who’s considered a role model despite drinking and driving, owes the entire country an apology if he’s caught smoking marijuana. Why? Because, kids, marijuana is an illegal drug that's worse than cigarettes or alcohol, and used only by objectionable people like (presumably) your parents and the President of the United States.