The latest embarrassing story about Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps should remind parents why holding up athletes as role models is a dicey proposition at best.
After the 2004 Athens Games, Phelps – underage at the time – was arrested for drunken driving. He pleaded guilty and apologized, saying it wouldn’t happen again. And in fact, he hasn’t gotten popped for drinking since.
Instead, Phelps made news this week when a British tabloid published a photo of him taking a hit from a marijuana pipe. The newspaper said the picture was taken during a house party in November while Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina. Phelps and his handlers didn’t dispute the authenticity of the photo.
“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” Phelps said. “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way …”
Using age as an out is lame – a 23-year-old is an adult by any measure. If you’re going to swim with the big boys, you need to act like one.
Phelps’ remarkable drive to succeed was clear in his stirring come-from-behind win in the 100-meter butterfly at the Beijing Games, where he won a record eight golds. That drive and his work ethic are to be admired, even emulated. Everything else? Not so much.