Please Stop The Unfair Attacks On Michael Phelps' Character

Josh HallContributor IFebruary 2, 2009

Yes, sports fans, it is true.  Michael Phelps has smoked marijuana.  The greatest athlete off all time took a bong hit.  If you listen to many professional sports writers, he has tarnished his legacy.  I, however, could not disagree more.

Last time I checked, Phelps still has 14 gold medals.  He still holds countless world records.  This has not changed, and it never will.  If he tested positive during a competition, that would be totally different.  If he ever tests positive for any performance enhancing substance, that would be a black mark on his legacy.  Taking a bong hit weeks after finishing the Olympics is not the same thing.  It isn't even close.

I was amazed at the comments I heard by prominent sports writers earlier today.  Comments by Jamele Hill that Phelps disrespected what he has accomplished, his family,  and sponsors.  She called his behavior a clear pattern, referring to a DUI he had in 2004.  Two totally separate incidents five years apart.  That does not a pattern make. 

Skip Bayless actually said he was "glad he finally got exposed."  Bayless went on to say that after two Olympics Phelps really isn't 23, he is an old guy in terms of the Olympics, so he should know better.  Just because a man has been an elite athlete for years does not change the fact that he is still only 23-years-old.  But I really would expect nothing else from Bayless, who has taken every opportunity possible to take cheap shots at Phelps.

Michael Phelps legacy was created in a pool, by outracing everyone put in front of him.  He never asked to be the poster boy for every child to aspire to be.  The sports media put the label on him, and now they want to tear him down.  It is unfair to hold Michael Phelps to any higher standards than anyone else in this country.  How many people can honestly say they would never be photographed doing something stupid or regrettable if people were constantly following them around looking for any picture they can sell? 

Michael Phelps is not perfect.  I have never heard him claim to be.  He is 23-years-old, and has spent the majority of his life in a pool training for greatness.  At this very moment, he is probably doing exactly that.  I really hope that people can separate his greatness in the pool from the couple of mistakes he has been caught making in his personal life.

I commend Speedo, Omega, and the International Olympic Committee for their continued backing of Phelps through this controversy.  These organizations were willing to support their man through a rough time, when they easily could have made it much worse for him. 

There are many of us out there that still support Michael Phelps, despite him showing that he is only human.  For all those who will no longer support Phelps because of this, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  Do not hold him to a greater standard than you would hold yourself.