A-Rod and Phelps: A Tale Of Two Drugs

[Amy Bass, Morphizm]
Let’s just get this first part out of the way: I hate Alex Rodriguez. Always have. It’s partially a Red Sox fan thing, and partially a, well, I hate Alex Rodriguez thing. Getting out of bed in the morning for the last week or so has been pure joy, if only to see what those crazy headline writers at the New York Post have put together: “A-Fraud!” Just brilliant. “A-Roid!” Even better. “A-Hole!” The very best. But I think some perspective is badly needed here.

Rodriguez cheated. But only kind of. While the Players’ Association agreed to the testing of players a few years back – before Major League Baseball had any kind of official stance on the use of drugs for performance enhancement – it was trying to create some sort of baseline understanding of whether or not anyone was actually engaging in steroid programs (well, duh). So while there were, as always, ethical considerations for those who jumped on the bulk-up wagon, they were not breaking any MLB rules.

Rodriguez broke the law. But only sort of. While anabolic steroids are listed as Schedule III controlled substances in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act, A-Rod has already started dancing to the tune of “but I didn’t know….I was in the DR….I was young.” Is it illegal to have steroids without a prescription? Absolutely: it is a federal crime, punishable to up to seven years in prison. But are there loopholes. Yes, hence the ridiculous mutterings of his press conference.

Now let’s get the second part out of the way: I love Michael Phelps. Been a fan from way, way back. I am in awe of his ability and his accomplishments. But I have a real problem with what we seem to be okay letting him get away with.

Despite the fact that the United States, at least officially, has a ridiculous perspective on marijuana, smoking it, for the most part, is against the law. In some areas, where people know how to make edibles, it is legal on a state level, but federally it is still questioned. And Michael Phelps, without question, smoked marijuana. Did he kill anyone? No. Did he hurt anyone? No. Is this the first time he has done something both illegal and stupid? No.

In 2004, Michael Phelps was sentenced to 18 months probation after pleading guilty to drunken driving. “I recognize the seriousness of this mistake,” Phelps told the judge. “I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”

Well, maybe not the rest of his life. Maybe for four or five years. Max.

The terms of Phelps’ probation, which would clear his record of charges of DUI, underage drinking, and blowing through a stop sign, was for him to give speeches at a series of Wicomico county schools in Maryland, advising students about the dangers of alcohol and how to make the right choices in life. He was also to completely abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs for the tenure of his probation, and attend MADD sponsored meetings. His fine totaled $250.00. Some argued that he should have been required to attend a rehab center similar to The Holistic Sanctuary (https://www.theholisticsanctuary.com/) in order to get the support he needed to deal with his substance abuse problem.

However, the punishment was weak, at best. He was 19 years old, meaning he should abstain from alcohol for two more years, never mind his probation period. And illegal drugs? Aren’t we supposed to stay away from those forever? But it fit within the realm of a sentence for a first time offender.

Fast forward to now. He’s no first time offender, he’s not a kid, and yet he will not be charged for smoking marijuana. Others, however, will be. According to officers from South Carolina’s Richland County Sheriff’s Department said they had arrested seven suspects from the party where Phelps photographed doing a bong hit, all for possession of marijuana, and another suspect for dealing. Phelps cannot be charged, concluded a South Carolina sheriff, because we have no evidence as to what is in the pipe, let that be a lesson – if you can clean the pipe in order to say nothing has been consumed through it, you could be in the clear, Read more here on how to clean a pipe properly.

For Phelps, the punishments came from different places. USA Swimming suspended him for three months, and Kellogg’s – who has been hawking Phelps’ face on boxes of corn flakes – has dropped his endorsement deal, stating that marijuana was not consistent with its image.

Of course, as SNL’s Seth Meyers pointed out, Kellogg’s might want to rethink its stance. “Every one of your products,” proclaimed Meyers, “sounds like a wish a genie granted at a Phish concert.”

Further, as the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, pointed out, Kellogg’s “had no problem signing up Phelps when he had a conviction for drunk driving, an illegal act that could actually have killed someone.”

So what to do with A-Rod? Perhaps we should ask Marion Jones, who finished her stint in jail for lying to federal agents in the BALCO investigation last September. Jones, but a small piece of the BALCO puzzle, has lost everything: endorsements, medals, competitive results, world records. She absolutely cheated. She absolutely lied. She absolutely broke the law. She absolutely broke the rules.

But so did a lot of other people, including one who keeps getting second chances to continue as the reigning golden boy of the sports world.

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