Primarily, I won't be an advocate of breaking the law as it is the standard by which all citizens have agreed to abide in order to maintain the peace within our nation.
Furthermore, I believe that personal opinions on the use of either for (medicinal, recreational, etc.) or against (religious based, fear of addiction, gateway drug, etc.) illegal narcotics are irrelevant as well, as one could easily argue the pros and cons of either side with the end result being a draw because (like many other controversial issues) there seems to be no middle ground.
However, I will offer that it is ridiculous for the media to criticize Michael Phelps in the manner that some have chosen.
I personally disagree with statements that say Michael Phelps betrayed some sort of imaginary trust with the American people. He had no such trust with Americans nor anyone else. He is a gifted athlete who simply out-performed other gifted athletes on a grand stage while representing Team USA....period...nothing more.
Superior athletic abilities simply do not equate to superior judgment, intellect, or moral character. One has to look no further than the NFL (i.e. Michael Vick, Adam "Pacman" Jones, 90's Cowboys), MLB (steroids) or the NBA (Eddie Griffin, NBA gambling scandal, etc.) to verify that statement.
I do not know Michael Phelps personally, therefore, it is impossible to know what kind of young man he is outside of the pool. Additionally, I do not know the terms of his contracts with any corporate sponsors. However, to imply that he betrayed one of them through his actions is ridiculous.
Unless his contract included written stipulations as to how he would conduct himself personally and publicly, he has done nothing wrong in my eyes to those sponsors. I refuse to feel sorry for corporate sponsors that wanted merely to profit from his name as long as possible.
They are well aware that all business has its own risks and sometimes promising ventures fail. In turn, I do not blame any of his sponsors for wanting to change direction. I highly doubt that even Kellogg's made a decision to drop Phelps based on some true moral ground.
It is simple cost-analysis of current revenue gained from Phelps compared to future revenue to be gained from using his image on their products. Kellogg's obviously feels that it is less profitable to use him at this point. I would not be surprised to see a change of heart come the summer games of 2012.
The root of the "Phelps scandal," if you will, is a problem that is systemic in our culture. We foster the idolization of athletes and celebrities. We want to place them on a pedestal and live vicariously through them, so when Casey strikes out (or in this case, smokes weed) the fall from grace is often over- exaggerated as outrage ensues from all sides.
We have become so enthralled by reality TV, TMZ, and the personal lives of these "heroes" we have created in our minds that we lose sight of the humanity within them. They have personal lives, opinions, and attitudes that are completely removed from their innate abilities for which we so admire them.
So, it comes to no surprise, that when they appear less than "idyllic" we castigate them without real reason. This is not the problem of the superstar - it's our problem. They did not make themselves famous - we did.
Instead of encouraging our kids to emulate athletes that are "stereo-typically" motivated through money and a selfish/unhealthy desire to be the best even through means that are detrimental to themselves or others, why not encourage them to be good citizens and hold heroic-level personal admiration for those who have earned it.
For me, that body is epitomized through the positive efforts of parents, teachers, policemen, firefighters, and military service members who readily display the qualities of a hero through loyalty, duty, respect (for others, oneself and the nation), selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
Lest we forget, the immortal words of Sir Charles who best summarizes my feelings about the role of athletes in America:
"I am not role model. I'm not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I can dunk a basketball, doesn't mean I should raise your kids." -Charles Barkley (also recently charged with a DUI)
In all, this is not a subject that should stir such emotion. It involves a single young man and (for sake of argument) an isolated incident in which no one was hurt. Everyone has his/her own opinion, but the law is clear.
It is not appropriate on any level (IMO) for parents (true role models) to encourage the breaking of laws, but much like sins. Sometimes it's hard to toe the line. We are all human and can only do our best to get through this life.
I feel confident that despite my best abilities, I will sin in the eyes of the Lord and (knowingly) break a law again (not murder, but I'm prone to speed) before I die. I can only hope that if I become famous that the world does not hold me in the same light, because I would frankly tell them to mind their own business and leave my punishment to the judges and God.
Lastly, in regard to the law, bear in mind the opinion of one of our greatest leaders who personally aided in the development of the foundation for such laws.
Thomas Jefferson offered that:
"Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by
individuals" and that "A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen........"
However, what controls the drive to be a good citizen other than the morals and values instilled in us through faith, family, education, and friends. Notice that professional athletes and movie stars were not on that list.
And, through TJ's (I'd venture to say that he'd enjoy to be called TJ) own words, the law must be through common consent. If it is not (much like prohibition was not), it should be fairly examined and put to a vote. Again, I am not speaking for or against the legalization of certain narcotics, but if such a debate exists, it should be continually reviewed to ensure that the law is representative of the popular belief. This is a necessity within our nation to prevent laws from being more than a "tyrant's will."
As TJ said:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." --Thomas Jefferson
In summary, if Mr. Phelps broke a law, he should be punished as equally as others under the systems that exists. If you don't like the law, call your congressman. The power of the constituency still carries a lot of weight in regard to a politician's current beliefs and morals.
In either case, we as his "outraged public" should get over our collective selves and refrain from throwing stones in our tiny glass houses. Perhaps we could put more effort into the "de-idolization" of athletes as a whole and consider better methods to try and inspire our children.