Did Michael Phelps Cheat?

Did Michael Phelps Cheat His Way To Olympic Gold?

Posted Aug 17, 2008


Michael Phelps is a marvel, that much for sure. His eight Olympic golds, which beat Mark Spitz's 1972 Munich Games record of seven medals, puts him in a class all by himself. How much of an impact did this guy have on modern athletics? Let's just say that both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant-two of arguably the most popular athletes in the world-came by to watch him swim in two of his last races and that's not the kind of thing that happens every day.

Moreover, all of his drug test have come up clean so it doesn't look like this world champion will be going the route of Marion Jones-but that doesn't mean he didn't cheat.

Oh sure, he didn't cheat in the "technical" definition of the word, but to understand what it is I'm talking about we have to back this discussion up a few months, to the point that the steroid argument was ruling our Congressional world. At the core of that great debate was this idea of the ‘level playing field.' We are constantly told that the level playing field is the basic for all good, modern, competitive sport. Steroids, by tilting this playing field, are considered cheating. The reasoning, they give athletes an advantage that their competitors don't have.

But what about Phelps advantages? First off, this dude's six-feet-four inches tall. That's four inches taller than Brendan Hansen, Phelp's fellow American teammate. Now four inches doesn't sound like a lot, but in a 200 meter race those inches add up to over an extra foot of race length.

Meaning if Phelps was slightly shorter would he have caught Milorad Cavic (who he beat by 1/100 of a second)?

Phelps also has double-jointed elbows, knees and ankles which allows him to bend in ways most swimmers can't. His size 14 feet are so big they essentially act as paddling fins and, at least according to ESPN's research his lung capacity (because of his elongated torso and compressed legs) is double that of most humans.

Now, clearly, these were all so-called "God-given advantages," but if we're really talking about a level playing field as the basis (as they called it in Congress) or all sport-then wouldn't the only fair competition be a swimming race between 6'4 genetic mutants like Phelps (Lance Armstrong, by the way, also had expanded lungs similar to Phelps which helps explain his unprecedented Tour-de-France triumphs)?

I'm not saying he cheated, but I am saying that unless you think David v. Goliath is an equal opportunity competition, than those swimming races were far less than.