NORML reacts to Phelps drug buzz

02/03/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Just days after a photo of him indulging in marijuana hit the internet, several of Michael Phelps sponsors say they are standing by him.

Apparel company Speedo and luxury watchmaker Omega have announced their support for the Olympic star, who electrified the world last summer by taking home a record eight Gold Medals.

On Sunday, Phelps acknowledged "regrettable" behavior and "bad judgment" after the photo appeared in the British tabloid News of the World. The paper said the picture was taken during a November house party while Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina.

Allen St. Pierre is Executive Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws based in Washington.

Olympic athletes face a battery of drug testing, generally for anything that could be construed as performance enhancing. St. Pierre jokes that pot might fit under that category if it were an ice cream eating contest, but certainly not for Olympic caliber swimming events. But he says that if anything, it shows that a world class athlete can occasionally indulge in cannabis and prove that he can be a major achiever.

Phelps does seem to be benefitting from America’s changing attitudes towards marijuana usage. During the transition period, the leading question submitted to the website Change.Gov was to ask if the Obama Adminstration would consider legalizing marijuana so it could be regulated and taxed to create jobs in the U.S.

The Obama transition team said the administration had no plans to reverse such policy.

But NORML’ s Allen St. Pierre says that the culture is much less judgmental when it comes to people being involved with smoking marijuana.

Two sponsors that Phelps works with us who are not directly linked to athletics, Kellogg and Visa, have yet to publicly comment.

Some critics contend that a black athlete of similar prominence would face more negative treatment from his sponsors. WMNF hopes to have more on that aspect of this story in a future broadcast.

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