Eight-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps: Does the reaction

to his pot use expose the hypocrisy of U.S. drug policy and morality?



Semana, Colombia

Michael Phelps and American Hypocrisy on the Use of Drugs


"Seventy six percent of Americans are in favor of finding new options in the battle against drug abuse. But the establishment and government donít seem to understand. Or perhaps they understand perfectly - but in the end wonít agree to hinder a trade that brings them such enormous benefits."


By Felipe Restrepo Pombo


Translated By Paula van de Werken


February 25, 2009


Colombia - Semana - Original Article (Spanish)

Michael Phelps kicks back at a college bash last month: Is the use of pot any worse than say, a scotch and soda? It's a controversy with no sign of abating.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: U.S. Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps admits to make some 'bad judgements,' Feb. 6, 00:00:29RealVideo

There is something unique about how idols are disgraced in the United States. Perhaps this is because in a nation obsessed with fame, the way idols fall is especially dramatic. Examples abound: Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and O.J. Simpson, just to mention the sorriest cases, went from the very heights to experiencing humiliating declines. To Michael Phelps, the Olympic multi-medalist, the same unfortunate thing could happen. With the photographs showing him proudly wearing his eight gold medals still fresh in our minds, he has been disgraced. Phelps was smiling then: he was happy to be the new American hero.


But a few weeks ago this triumphant smile vanished when the tabloid News of the World published a slightly less heroic photograph, in which the swimmer appeared to be smoking marijuana. The images were taken during a college bash last November, when the athlete was relaxing after his epic Olympic achievement. The image of Phelps inhaling from a glass bong began circulating everywhere, and to many of us it seemed silly: after all, the 23-year-old swimmer wasnít doing anything terrible. He was smoking marijuana, something that scandalizes few in today's world.


Aside from the United States, that is.


Shortly after the photo was made public, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced that Phelps would be suspended from any official competition for three months. Immediately after that, Kelloggs decided to discontinue its sponsorship of the swimmer and to recall all Kelloggs cereal boxes that his face appeared on. And as if that wasnít punishment enough, the authorities announced a police investigation that never went anywhere. Phelps himself was forced to apologize. ďI engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment Ö I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me,Ē he said.


I understand that Phelps is a public figure and has an image to maintain. I also agree with those who maintain that such a high-level athlete shouldnít take drugs - but in addition, they say that he did so without proper decorum, that it wasn't the first time he had smoked, and that he should be a model of good behavior. But to punish him this way for something that's no worse than getting drunk is excessive. In fact, he was already arrested for drunk driving - a much more serious infraction in my eyes - and no one said a word about it.



Setting these considerations aside, it seems to me that the entire matter is nothing more than pathetic proof of the double-standard that exists in the United States when it comes to drug use - and more generally of its false morality. One recalls the affair involving Janet Jackson's nipple some years ago. The nation that consumes more pot than any on the planet continues to insist on prohibiting and penalization its consumption and is in the midst of an armed conflict against its trafficking. I wonít cite the statistics which prove this here: that would be like rain falling on wet ground.


Truth be told, just a short time ago a group of experts on the subject, led by the former presidents Cesar Gaviria of Columbia, Fernando Cardoso of Brazil and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, spoke in favor of legalization and decriminalization. The former presidents - who based on their own experience, know the nuts and bolts of the problem - said that as long as drugs remain illegal and drug-trafficking remains a lucrative business, nothing will change. They also proposed a "controlled" legalization - and warned that it [pot] should be treated as a public health issue - not one of security.††



Of course in the United States, legalization is not a possibility - and not because people donít want it to be legal. According to an item cited by the Wall Street Journal, 76 percent of Americans are in favor of finding new options in the battle against drug abuse. But the establishment and government donít seem to understand. Or perhaps they understand perfectly - but in the end they wonít agree to hinder a trade that brings them such enormous benefits.



Excelsior, Mexico: How Mexico Could Legalize Pot - Whether U.S. Likes it or Not

Excelsior, Mexico: Relations Between U.S. and Mexico are Deteriorating

La Tercera, Chile Mexico's Drug War: No Way Out But to Fight On

Semana, Colombia: Michael Phelps and American Hypocricy on the Use of Drugs


Latin American governments donít seem open to change, either. Just as the proposal by the former presidents was published, the governments of two of the most affected countries in the region rejected it. Mexico's Secretary of Health said that legalization is not a viable solution and that the only result would be to increase the number of addicts. The Colombian president also refuted it. Whatís more, our always-progressive President Uribe announced that he would insist on a law penalizing those carrying pot for personal use. In other words - go back into hiding.


Of course the case of Phelps is peanuts compared to the drama of the real victims: the thousands of people dying as a result of an absurd ban. For this reason it is revealing and yet one more piece of evidence that in the fight against drugs, stupidity and blindness continue to reign.






































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US March 2, 7:25pm]