17 February 2009

Phelps, pot, and overzealous police

Depending on how you look at it, the good news for today is that South Carolina police have decided not to pursue drug charges against competitive swimming superstar Michael Phelps.

As a former competitive swimmer, I kind of feel like I should weigh in on the Phelps bong photo issue. I don't view the world through rosy enough goggles to seriously entertain the notion that Phelps wasn't properly enjoying his bong. I doubt many others don't either. So we'll go with the assumption that Phelps is occasionally 'doping,' in the 'up' sense, not the performance-enhancing way.

You'd have to think that if Phelps was Canadian, we'd happily turn a blind eye to the incident. Remember Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Ross Rebagliati who was temporarily stripped of his medal for having marijuana in his system? We all supported him. I'm not sure though if our support was due to a more permissive attitude towards drugs in Canada or to the fact that we're so desperate for gold medals that we're willing to let a lot slide. Certainly though, we'd be willing to overlook a lot for a guy like Phelps who wan more gold than Canada in the last summer games.

You have to wonder about how much this situation hurts the camp of the war on drugs. "Kids! Don't do drugs or else you'lll never be one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. Oh, wait... shit."

FYI: The ten most successful potheads on the planet cool enough to admit it

Actually, speaking of Ross Rebagliati, there may actually be a performance enhancing aspect to marijuana for athletes of a certain psychological disposition. Some people get too tightly wound-up in pressure situations, too aggressive, and it causes them to tighten-up, lose control, and make mistakes. My wife is that way, and I've often joked that if she toke a little before a big game, she'd perform better. Perhaps in a smooth and rythmic sport like snowboarding slalom, the weed gave Ross an advantage.

Note: I'm not a recreational drug user, and don't encourage it, except for copious quantities of alcohol - and even then I don't get truly wasted as I tend to prefer keeping my mental faculties intact. It just seems that in a society that accepts tobacco and alcohol it is congongruous that marijuana would be stigmatized. There are many, many other more important things to worry about the mild drug lives of young adults.

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