Should Athletes Be Held to Higher Standards?

The media often portray partying and sports as going hand in hand, a la Varsity Bues, but when athletes get Tropical Lei crazy they are looked down upon and rebuked. This article is not meant to encourage partying behavior from athletes (I’m an RA), but instead to point out and question the double standard imposed on athletes by other athletes and the masses.

Olympians, due to the international significance of the Summer and Winter Games, seem to be the most universally criticized athletes. It seems natural for athletes to celebrate after they win an Olympic medal, but they are often criticized for doing so.

Take Scotty Lago who, after winning a bronze medal in the half-pipe snowboarding event in the 2010 Winter Olympics, was photographed with a girl biting his medal in one image and the same girl kneeling next to him and kissing the medal in another. After these photos were made public, the Olympic committee and others attacked Lago for egregious public behavior. While Lago was not asked to leave the Olympics, he ended up doing so because of the continued negative reaction he faced. While it is understandable that the Olympic committee viewed this event as framing America in an unflattering light, at the same time, all the athletes were partying and do so most of the time while on tour. It seems unfair not to expect these athletes to go out to celebrate victory and hard work. It is important to note that there was no alcohol or drugs in the photo—where’s the logic in criticizing Lago for showing off his medal and having it admired (and maybe getting some action)?

On his twenty-first birthday, Lago was photographed with a flute of alcohol in his hand, and again his actions were criticized. Why should Lago be criticized for legally drinking alcohol to celebrate his birthday when most people would do exactly the same thing? It is questions like these that make it difficult to understand why athletes are so commonly attacked for debaucherous behavior.

Michael Phelps is another athlete who was judged for an activity in which huge portions of the world also engage. When Phelps was photographed smoking marijuana, the controversy that ensued was simply ridiculous.

On the other end of the spectrum, it could be argued that athletes are in the spotlight and should live up to that responsibility. However, it is important to remember that athletes are normal people who want to enjoy and participate in fairly common activities. They certainly deserve to participate, and if they tend to be some of the wildest partiers, remember that they too need a break sometimes. Why be harder on the actions of athletes than of ordinary people? Furthermore, if athletes can party hard and still do well, then that says something about their athletic ability––who are we, as a society, to judge?

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