Criticism of Phelps disproportionate to offense

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    As a lifelong sports fanatic, I wouldn’t be surprised if I knew the entire Dallas Cowboys roster at any given time.

    As a kid, I thought Deion Sanders was the epitome of style and charisma, while Troy Aikman was the definition of a great man.

    I looked up to these men with stars in my eyes and, in light of all the fumbles of recent athletes, I have begun to explore the question: Are celebrity athletes role models?

    NBA star Charles Barkley has said in the past that he is not a role model.

    It is obvious to someone like me, who grew up on American athletics, that Barkley and other premier athletes of this country are role models to kids around the world.

    This includes Michael Phelps, the 23-year-old, 14-time Olympic gold medalist who was recently photographed smoking marijuana out of a bong.

    Some levels of misbehavior can be disappointing, but we have to remember that athletes are only human and everyone makes mistakes.

    However, there are also athletes like New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman who have been accused of steroid abuse.

    These actions are not in the same category as a “boys will be boys” type of mistake.

    Deciding to cheat at a sport takes premeditation and negates any accolades or awards won by the athlete during his or her career.

    So why is it that Phelps smoking from a bong receives just as much scrutiny and airtime as Roger Clemens’ purported years of performance-enhancing drug abuse?

    Why is the bong smoking incident an instant story while the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs is often overlooked for years or even decades?

    It is a travesty that our society is overly critical of athletes who make common mistakes yet allows those who cheat the integrity of athletics to go on as great leaders.

    We can only hope that these athletes will one day realize they truly are role models.

    In the meantime, the public should recognize the differences in these two very different types of infractions and regulate accordingly.

    Maybe then we can turn our attention over to the real negative role models in our society.