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Baltimore native Frank Deford, one of my literary heroes, has an interesting piece of commentary today on SI.com about growing concerns over the Beijing Olympics, which are now just 133 days away.

The pollution is still atrocious and the alleged human rights violations are, somehow, even worse and there is now little expectation that things are going to get better before August. It's a subject that's been on my mind a lot the last few days, because I was in Ann Arbor, Mich., hanging out with Michael Phelps, the one athlete who will undoubtably be the face of the Olympics as they get closer.

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The debate over China puts Phelps in a difficult spot.

He is, first and last, a competitor and an athlete. He wants to swim and take swimming to places the sport has never been before. The Olympics are the only stage where he can do that. He's not a politician, and doesn't really like to get caught up in political debates. But he knows he's going to get questions about the situation, and people will ask him to take a position.

He told me the student newspaper in Ann Arbor recently wrote an article saying he shouldn't worry about winning a single gold medal while he's in Beijing, he should focus solely on human rights while he's there. It's kind of an unfair position to be put in, in my opinion.

Phelps has worked his entire life for this moment. It wasn't his decision to award China the 2008 Games. He values human rights as much as anyone, but he also wants to prove he's the best swimmer ever. To use his athletic ability as a political tool feels somewhat misguided.

Although conventional wisdom seems to be that any kind of Olympic boycott only hurts the athletes, Anne Applebaum, a columnist for Slate.com, breaks down some of the reasons why the Olympics are a perfect place for a boycott.

-- Kevin Van Valkenburg

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