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What a shame; Michael Phelps is a disappointment!

It's happened again.

A big name sports star, turned celebrity, has been exposed for smoking marijuana.

The latest such star is Michael Phelps, the 14-time U.S. Olympic Gold Medal swimmer.

A photograph, which now has been seen literally around the world, shows Mr. Phelps getting a high from a bong.

What a disappointment!

Did he even think before he did what he did and is sorry enough for his action?

For the latter, I say no.

Athletes, like all of us make mistakes, but most of us aren't basking in the limelight like Mr. Phelps and other high profile celebrities.

So, do we hold these people to a higher standard?

The answer is yes.

The reason we do is because people like Mr. Phelps and other sports stars are looked upon by our youth as heroes. And if our children see their heroes misbehaving, they automatically are sent a crystal-clear message that it's OK to do certain illegal things because their heroes have done it.

We must return a message to our children that such behavior is not right and cannot be tolerated. We must also inform them that if they make such mistakes, they face certain consequences for their action.

Even though Mr. Phelps has apologized for his mistake, he still faces consequences for what he did wrong.

The biggest one, perhaps, is being suspended from swimming for three months. Another one involves losing a lucrative contract to advertise for Kellogg's - the giant cereal company.

Other companies who have contracted with him and his agents might also pull the plug before it's all over, who knows.

While covering a college football game at the University of South Carolina in Columbia this past season, I met Mr. Phelps while waiting around to interview Thomson's Jasper Brinkley, who played for the Gamecocks a little more than two seasons.

Mr. Phelps just happened to have been in Columbia learning to play poker with a close friend.

Ironically, it was in Columbia where the photograph of him getting high off the illegal weed from the bong was taken.

My boss, Jason B. Smith, publisher of The McDuffie Mirror, already had spotted Mr. Phelps on the sidelines and taken a number of photographs of him.

At the time Mr. Phelps was walking near where I was standing waiting on Mr. Brinkley, I decided to approach him, thinking he might let me interview him. There were no other reporters around. I thought it would be pretty cool to have an exclusive interview with one of our country's biggest sports celebrities at the time.

We shook hands and I congratulated him on his Olympic feat and introduced myself as a reporter.

He politely replied, "I'm not being interviewed," before walking away.

In all honesty, I wasn't mad that he didn't allow me to interview him. Actually, I expected his reply. I remember turning and looking at my boss saying, "It would have been nice to have gotten an interview with him, but that's OK, I understood.'

Had I not tried to interview Mr. Phelps, I certainly would have thought I was not acting in a responsible manner as a journalist.

What we have learned that took place there, perhaps even the weekend that we visited Columbia for the ballgame, was that Mr. Phelps was breaking the law.

He could have even been arrested for what he did, which would have surely made matters much worse.

I truly hope Mr. Phelps has learned from this mistake and won't ever do anything like it again.

Using dope is wrong. And it sends the wrong message to our society - period!

Web posted on Thursday, February 12, 2009

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