Several readers have sent this question our way and I will give my ingenuous answer. It is ingenuous because I as most of us have never been in Michael Phelps situation: Being the most accomplished Olympic athlete in the World, being under the pressure of exhaustive training every day, and having the opportunity to party with a bunch of friends who are on drugs. The psychology of an individual under those circumstances and the fact of his youth make him highly vulnerable.
One thing I strongly admire in Michael Phelps is his avoidance of tattoos which unfortunately are so common in many outstanding amateur and professional sports’ performers, a trend that gives youngsters a terrible example. Other admirable features are his creativity and innovation. His free style is truly amazing and most others are following him in the “fish-like” swimming model. He is a good public speaker and that helps him project his great experiences to motivate others.
I am almost 70 now, and fortunately, to this day, have never in my life been under the black shadow of illegal drugs. In reality this is not personal merit. My parents were terrific role models of choosing the right things, the right activities and actions, the right people to associate with; and avoiding the wrong. Also I have never been a sports’ star; actually all the opposite, because my skills for kicking, running, throwing, jumping, and succeeding, have been limited to thoughts and words but not physical actions. Sports’ stars are submitted to exhaustive disciplines and sometimes the demands put on them are frankly exaggerated.
Now let me make it clear that I do not justify Michael Phelps’ deviation from the straight line. I absolutely disapprove of his behavior and think that Kellogg’s was right to withdraw their sponsorship as probably will some others who do not want their image associated with this media-fed scandal. Earning trust is a lifetime effort, losing it requires just a minute of stupidity, and that is exactly what happened to Michael Phelps.
Can he recover? Sure he can! It is costing him in many ways and that should send him a very strong message. He has had to face the media which is perhaps the potentially best allay and the worst enemy you can ever have. The media is very strong because of the influence it has over the public opinion. If he can give them a lot of good material to talk about and make big money from it, his misbehavior will go to the bottom of the list just as has happened with other athletes. He is also losing millions of dollars in sponsorship, and the Swimming Association, Olympic Committee and other instances will keep him under the spotlight demanding even more than ever before. All that will help Phelps keep regaining prestige and support.
On my part, and answering one of our readers’ questions: If I was one of his sponsors, I would be looking for Michael Phelps to regain his trust. If he proves himself worthy, I would continue my sponsorship. If not, I would look for someone else who may seem unlikely to disappoint everyone.
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