Michael Phelps' DUI prompts athlete double standards

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Katherine Schmidt

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was arrested on September 30 in Maryland for driving under the influence. He was pulled over early that morning while heading home from a casino.

Phelps announced to CBS News that he will be attending a six-week rehabilitation program.

“[It] will provide the help I need to better understand myself,” said Phelps. His participation in this program will put his swimming on hold until November.

“Swimming is a major part of my life, but right now I need to focus my attention on me as an, and do the necessary work to learn from this experience and make better decisions in the future,” he said to CBS News.

As a past swimmer, I will be the first to admit that Phelps was always admired by many of my teammates, myself included, for his incredible success in his career. I will also be the first to admit that I was disappointed when I saw the picture of Phelps with a marijuana pipe five years ago.

When I read about how he was checking himself into rehab and taking time off from his dedicated swimming career to take care of himself, I was incredibly impressed. But the more I started thinking about the whole situation, the more I realized how much of a double standard we have for athletes.

While I commend Phelps for taking time off to focus on himself and improve his behaviors and standards, why are not other athletes doing this as well? Why does Phelps have to be the one to make a public apology about his behavior, but other athletes in the National Football League or National Basketball Association don’t have to do the same.

According to the NFL Arrests Database, there have been seven driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated arrests in 2014 alone, and none of these offenders made any type of public apology. I did not even know that there were this many of these offenses in the NFL in 2014 alone (and the year isn’t over yet).

Phelps had two of these incidents in a 10-year span, while there are some NFL players who have received two charges like this in less than a year. Why do not we hear any public apologies from any of these other players for their arrests?

I have never heard of anyone going to a rehabilitation program just because of a DUI or DWI, but Phelps has taken it upon himself to do so. However, why is Phelps the only athlete that I know who is taking these steps to better himself. Why is there this double standard that athletes like Phelps have to go to such lengths to fix his image, but NFL players’ arrests often go unnoticed?

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