Written by Kendra Lancaster
By now, everyone knows about the Michael Phelps controversy. Not too long ago, a photo was released to the media of him smoking, what many believe, is marijuana.
This has not been the first time Phelps has had a run-in with illegal substances. After the 2004 Olympics, at the age of 19, Phelps was pulled over and charged with a DUI. He claimed this was an “isolated incident” and swore that he would work better to be a role model to his many fans. Obviously, he has fallen back in to thinking that he’s an “untouchable idol” after this last Olympics, where he was the golden boy. Phelps was on multiple gossip columns about his hard partying antics, his questionable choice in cocktail waitresses as girlfriends and an overall change in focus from swimming to having fun.
Unfortunately for Phelps, this has caught up with him. Since this photo has been released, he has had to deal with multiple repercussions, and is lucky he hasn’t had more. So far, he has only been dropped from one of his sponsors, Kellogs, who he chose over Wheaties because of their very high bid.
But, more importantly, he has been suspended from USA Swimming for three months without pay. This is far from a big hit for Phelps, since a majority of money comes from advertisements. However, he had the possibility in not participating in the next Olympics due to a new clause in their contract: an athlete can be banned from participating in their sport for four years if he or she has taken any drugs.
Phelps is not the only athlete who has had a brush with the law and controversy. In fact, it seems like a lot of star athletes have had legal issues that have ended careers. Athletes are beginning to think that they are above the law, and because of that they are becoming their own demise.
One Texas athlete had an eventful summer this past year. Cedric Benson, a former running back of the University of Texas, is the sixth leading rusher in the NCAA, with a total of 5,540 rushing yards with Texas. While he was there, he did in fact have a few run-ins with the law.
He was arrested for marijuana possession and then a trespassing charge. The marijuana possession charge was dropped and he was barely reprimanded for trespassing. Most people simply forgot about the incidents. Benson was drafted fourth overall in 2005 to the Chicago Bears with a five-year 35 million dollar contract. To many people, he was off to a great start. Unfortunately, his career wasn’t as hot as everybody was expecting, and lo and behold, he ran in to more legal problems.
On May 3, 2008, Benson was charged with boating while intoxicated in Austin after he failed a field sobriety test. After spending the night in jail, Benson was able to bail himself out for the boating charge, and also resisting arrest.
Just five weeks later, on June 7, 2008, Benson was pulled over in Austin and failed another field sobriety test. He refused to give a breathalyzer test or blood test, and once again became unruly with the police. Just a few days later, Benson was dropped from the Chicago Bears, and his multi-million-dollar contract.
One of the most famous incidents of an athlete destroying his own career has to be Maurice Clarett. Clarett was one of the most promising football players seen this century. He was ranked the number one high school football player in the nation, and had an amazing first-year at Ohio State University. But his attitude and choice in lifestyle got in his way.
Clarett never got the opportunity to play more than one season with OSU, because he was suspended his sophomore year after filing a false police report claiming he had $10,000 worth of items stolen.
On January 1, 2006, Clarett robbed two people outside of a Columbus dance club, taking a cell phone valued at about $150.
Although he stopped playing for OSU, Clarett still participated in the 2005 NFL draft, and was picked in the third round to the Denver Broncos. After being unimpressive during the pre-season training, especially after gaining a lot of weight due to his partying lifestyle, Clarett was dropped before the season even began. Even though other teams could have picked him up afterwards, none seemed to show any interest.
Even though Clarett’s career had already been established as dead by this point, he continued to be encircled with major legal problems. On August 9, 2006, Clarett was arrested in Columbus after having a police speed chase for having an open bottle of Grey Goose and illegal firearms. Clarett was sentenced to prison, and is still in jail to this day.
Unfortunately, Benson and Clarett’s cases are just two of many. Who knows what sort of careers and money these two players could have had if they had just gotten their act together. Athletes are not untouchable, and they are not above the law. In fact, they have more to lose than most regular people. Now-a-days, possession of marijuana is about the same as a parking fine, but it is costing Phelps a whole lot more.
These cocky athletes need to understand the significance of their actions, and the major consequences they can lead to.