This Week in Drugs and Sports

Michael Phelps, Santonio Holmes and Bob Hayes: Three sports legends and one unprecedented weekend.

For those who don’t regularly follow sports, Phelps is an Olympic legend with 14 gold medals, Holmes is a football star with a Super Bowl ring and the Hayes was both – a multiple gold medal winner and one time “world’s fastest man” and also Super Bowl winning wide receiver from the Dallas Cowboys.

And, this past weekend, they gave us three very different perspectives of the intersection of sports and drugs.

On Saturday, Hayes was posthumously elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Whether Hayes would ever make the Hall has been an ongoing debate for nearly 30 years.  He had what most considered a Hall-worthy career, but the taint of a 1979 drug arrest for delivering narcotics to an undercover police officer and the resulting 10-month prison stint had long been considered the reason he was not getting inducted.  He finally made it, but didn’t live to see his long time dream realized.

In a story that developed over both Saturday and Sunday, Phelps acknowledged that a picture of him smoking marijuana at a University of South Carolina party was authentic.  This has been followed by a series of spin-control, PR moves and apologies and has resulted in Kellogg’s not renewing his endorsement contract and a 3-month suspension from USA Swimming.  It is much too early to know how this will impact his standing and legacy.

Then, on Sunday, Holmes who has admitting to dealing drugs when he was in elementary school and was arrested for marijuana possession earlier this year, had a breakout performance in the Super Bowl which ended with him scoring what is already considered one of the greatest touchdowns in football history and being named MVP of the game.

As a parent, these give us plenty of topics to discuss with our kids.  We can talk about Phelps’s poor judgment and the contradictions of his supreme physical conditioning and his unhealthful behavior.  We can talk about the way that the consequences of our actions follow us much longer than we might realize.  We can talk about the brave decisions that Holmes made to change a dead end course into a productive life, but also how that battle still continues.  But most of all, we can share with our children the knowledge that brilliance in sports does not make a person a role model and that no one, no matter how wealthy or famous, is immune to the negative impacts of drugs.

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