February 11, 2009. Michael Phelps, America’s most decorated Olympic athlete, recently was the subject of tabloid fodder when a picture of him allegedly using a “bong” surfaced on the Internet. Yup that’s him! Leave it to the British to uncover the photo. I’ve read reports indicating that the pictures were from an incident that happened before the Olympics. (I for one would have focused on his watch!) His Olympic achievements aside, Phelps faces scrutiny from his fans, the public and especially his commercial sponsors.
Phelps’ agents have confirmed that he has deals with a number of big corporations including Speedo (surprise), Hilton, Visa, Omega Watches, and AT&T, to name a few. His agents have refused to release the value of the endorsement deals but suffice it to say Phelps won’t have to work anytime soon. I’m sure he and his family for generations to come will be set financially. (I sure hope he buys his mom a house, I grew fond of her cheering him on in the stands).
Now Kellogg’s has announced they will let their current endorsement deal with Phelps expire. He was also suspended from competition by the US swim team. This has prompted marijuana activists groups to start calling for us to boycott Kellogg’s products. (There has been no mention of them boycotting swimming – I assume because even marijuana users like to swim) Petitions are circulating and the publicity machine for both camps are in full swing. I thought it was interesting that Kellogg’s was apparently aware of Phelps’ prior drunk driving charge and didn’t make an issue of that. Phelps hasn’t been charged with anything yet and given the carefully crafted wording of his public apology for some regrettable decisions he has made, his lawyers likely considered that possibility well before he responded to the media inquiries. Just today, Phelps no-showed for IBM as the keynote speaker (I guess he’s in demand) at a tech conference. Magic Johnson batted back up.
Consider that Massachusetts, like a growing number of other states, has joined the growing trend of de-criminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That doesn’t technically mean smoking pot is now legal. Its just now treated as a civil infraction along with a fine.
Could Phelps be charged? Sure, he could be charged if that jurisdiction isn’t as liberal as Massachusetts. Consider, however, how would they prove what he was doing was illegal unless he admitted to it? I’ve seen plenty of bongs and hookah’s in bars where people smoke tobacco. The obvious aside, its clearly a matter of proof as to whether some gung-ho District Attorney could successfully prosecute such a case. All criminal cases have burdens of proof. They usually involve observations of an officer. In successful drug prosecutions, evidence usually includes an officer’s testimony of identifying the odor of marijuana and a lab analysis confirming that the seized substance is, in fact, an illegal drug.
I sincerely doubt any evidence of this ‘crime” still exists. Although Roger Clemens’ trainer kept the “needles” he allegedly used for several years (That is just weird). I hope that Phelps’s advisers counseled him to keep his mouth shut. In my opinion, the kid is 23 years old. He has been training since he was in the womb. I’m sure he has had little time to grow up. Cut him some slack. I’d rather see some footage of some of these bailout (Wall Street bankers) caught on tape smoking something funny. Then we could all save some taxpayers’ money but cutting off their funding. Should he be without consequence? NO, he was suspended. He likes to swim. I am sure he is not happy about the suspension. If he wants to keep swimming, then test him and be done with it.