Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 2009
Source: Colusa County Sun-Herald (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Freedom Communications
Author: Thomas Lucente
Note: Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is a columnist with The Lima (Ohio) News, 
a Freedom Communications newspaper


I am very disappointed in Michael Phelps. I thought he was better than that.

I really can't believe he apologized for exercising his God-given 
natural right to fly Mexican airlines, to fire it up, to get a gage 
up, to smoke the love weed, to take a hit of Mary Jane.

When Phelps inhaled marijuana from that bong at a party in November 
at the University of South Carolina, he was simply exercising his 
right as a free human being.

Apologizing made it seem as though what he did was somehow wrong.

That's just (reefer?) madness.

Nor should Phelps' behavior be surprising.

I was shocked how many Americans seemed surprised to discover that a 
23-year-old at a college party might smoke marijuana. Our last three 
presidents have admitted to drug use. Two of those three actually 
admitted to inhaling.

When it comes to drugs, America is a nation of hypocrites. We permit 
alcohol and tobacco, yet we ban marijuana, even when needed for 
medicinal purposes. (California permits medical use of marijuana 
under the Compassionate Use Act, but a federal ban remains in place.)

Apparently we would rather people suffer than have access to a plant. 
How regressive we can be.

These athletes spend years training. It is natural, then, that after 
the Olympics, they want to take some time and unwind.

While visiting a few bars in Atlanta with some friends the day after 
the 1996 Olympics ended, the athletes were seriously unwinding, 
getting drunk, dancing on tables, removing clothing. It was quite the 
spectacle. It was, however, a much-deserved break after years of hard work.

So, rather than apologizing, Phelps should have told America to buzz 
off. The reaction to the photograph that appeared Feb. 1 in the 
British tabloid News of the World has been over the top.

Marijuana is not banned under World Anti-Doping Agency rules. An 
athlete is subject to WADA sanctions only for a positive test that 
occurs during competition periods.

Still, USA Swimming suspended him from competition for three months 
and cut off his $1,750 monthly stipend and other performance bonuses.

"This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but 
we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he 
disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands 
of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a 
hero," the federation said in a statement. "Michael has voluntarily 
accepted this reprimand and has committed to earn back our trust."

So, no rule was broken, yet he was suspended for three months?

Also, officials in South Carolina said they were looking into filing 
charges against Phelps.


There is no evidence that any law was broken beyond the photograph. 
Heck, a person can peruse MySpace and Facebook and find all kinds of 
similar photographs. Should our law enforcers begin trying to 
prosecute people based on photographs that surface? Of course, if it 
were some unknown college student, it is unlikely police officials in 
South Carolina would care.

The same day as the announced suspension, cereal and snack maker 
Kellogg Co. announced it wouldn't renew its sponsorship contract with 
Phelps, saying his behavior is "not consistent with the image of 
Kellogg." The swimmer appeared on the company's cereal boxes after 
his Olympic triumph.

That is, of course, the company's prerogative. In fact, the only 
people who should be concerned about the photograph are Phelps, 
perhaps his coach, and those like Kellogg who pay him millions of 
dollars for endorsements.

Beyond that, it is really no one else's business what Phelps decides 
to put into his body.

Let's face it. Taking a drug is a personal choice. It is unjust and 
immoral to impose Draconian drug laws on society as a whole simply to 
"try" to protect a few citizens from making bad choices.

In fact, legalizing drugs, as we learned from the alcohol battles in 
the 1920s, would reduce by half the number of prisons in this country 
and eliminate thousands of homicides every year.

Despite that, however, the real reason drug use should be legal is 
because it is absolutely no business of the government what citizens 
put into their bodies. Only when we permit citizens to make such poor 
choices can we truly claim we live in a free society.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake