Phelps gets suspended, A-Rod gets ... nothing

Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:43am EST
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By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The punishments of swimmer Michael Phelps and baseball star Alex Rodriguez don't fit their relative crimes, experts said, raising questions about how Americans treat their sports heroes when they fall from grace.

Phelps partied with marijuana, a performance-detracting drug, and was suspended from swimming. Rodriguez took banned performance-enhancing drugs for three years and suffered no penalty but an uncomfortable television interview.

The American swimmer Phelps, 23, won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games last summer but lost an endorsement deal with U.S. food giant Kellogg Co after a British newspaper published a picture of the Olympic champion apparently smoking marijuana.

USA Swimming then suspended him for three months.

Rodriguez, 33, the highest paid player in baseball, admitted to ESPN television on Monday that he took a banned substance from 2001 to 2003 after Sports Illustrated reported he tested positive for testosterone and the anabolic steroid Primobolan in 2003.

He escapes sanctions from Major League baseball because it did not punish players at that time for using steroids.

"We should leave Michael Phelps alone. He's a kid. So he made a mistake. He owned up to it right away -- as opposed to A-Rod, whose been lying about it for a number of years," said Deborah Cohn, professor of marketing at New York's Touro College.

So far other sponsors have stood by Phelps, including Speedo swimwear, Omega watches, Visa Inc, Subway sandwiches and Hilton Hotels Corp.   Continued...

<p>New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez attends a baseball training session in an open camp in Boca Chica February 3, 2009. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz</p>