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NAX: George Washington had it right when it comes to honesty - Odessa American: Ken Brodnax

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NAX: George Washington had it right when it comes to honesty

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Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 12:00 am

So there’s been a bit of a fuss after a British tabloid published a photograph of Olympic swimming superstar Michael Phelps taking a hit off a bong.

It was inevitable that a lot of folks would get bent out of shape. After all, a guy who wins eight gold medals in one Olympics is going to be a hero and a role model to youngsters everywhere, especially those who aspire to athletic greatness.

And, sure, plenty of other people shrugged and said, “So what.” It’s not as if millions of Americans, including presidents, haven’t done some recreational drugs at some point in their lives.

But regardless of individual reaction, we have to understand that Phelps found himself in a volatile situation. Smoking pot still is illegal, although it’s a lot less of a crime than it was for decades. Secondly, he stands to lose big bucks from this episode. His endorsements may drop off dramatically, and his speaking engagements and accompanying six-figure fees could dry up.

Well, perhaps due partly to the innocence of youth, it can be reported that Phelps thus far has handled his dilemma in much better fashion than some of his fellow athletes who are older, have been famous for a lot longer and who choked on their egos.

The Olympic legend just fessed up. Yeah, that was him in the photo, and he made a mistake. No claims of doctored photos, no deniability. If he continues this course, the publicity storm should die fairly soon.

If he needs any reassurance that honesty is the best policy, Phelps need only to consider the sad and tawdry tales of a couple of other high-profile athletes — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

These two one-time superstar baseball players, when confronted with accusations of use of steroids, sought to protect their potential Hall of Fame reputations by swearing innocence.

Big mistake. Bonds already has been indicted for perjury and soon will go to trial. Clemens is being investigated for lying to Congress and could get indicted.

Regardless of the outcome, their reputations have been forever stained. Chances are neither will be elected to their coveted Hall of Fame anytime soon — maybe never.

You have to wonder if Clemens ever thinks about the different course that his friend and fellow pitcher, Andy Pettitte, took when the accusations began.

Pettitte admitted to taking human growth hormone and apologized. Since then, he’s resumed his career and recently signed a contract with the New York Yankees that could bring him $11.25 million next season. Clemens and Bonds could be out that much, or more, in legal fees.

Pettitte’s admission is a footnote to his career, but he got out of the storm without getting soaked.

Time and time again we hear the wisdom that it’s not the crime that gets you, it’s the cover-up. We probably owe that realization to President Richard Nixon, whose legacy always will be stained by Watergate and its aftermath.

Phelps is off to a good start in getting past this embarrassing moment in his life. Now he needs to avoid high-priced spin merchants who can’t even understand Rule No. 1 when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar. You know Rule No. 1. The one that says the truth will set you free.

Odessa, TX

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