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It's OK to question Michael Phelps

We’ve gotten two angry letters about a cartoon we ran depicting Michael Phelps as a frog. The authors of one are demanding an apology.

They all believe a cartoon we published credited Phelps’ success on the technical advantage he gets from wearing a body suit.

That wasn’t our interpretation.

The cartoon features two panels — A human Phelps with the caption, “Michael Phelps wearing a body suit,” and then a frog accompanied by the caption, “Michael Phelps without his body suit.”

We think the cartoonist — Terry Mosher of the Montreal Gazette — was saying Phelps swims like an amphibian, a creature born to move through water. Otherwise, why not have him depicted as a sinking rock without his suit?

That would make a statement.

But even if we’re wrong and our critics right, the outrage seems an overreaction. Why shouldn’t Mosher (he uses the pen name “Aislin” on his cartoons) raise the issue of superior suits contributing to the fall of so many swimming records?

Speedo’s LZR Racer is the product of years of research, much of it done in cooperation with NASA. The sole aim is to make swimmers faster.

The best swimmers in the world, including Phelps, say it works.

There’s also speculation about whether the depth of the pool in Beijing contributed to the record-setting pace at this year’s Olympics. Phelps won a record eight gold medals against swimmers with access to all the same technological advantages. He clearly outswam his competitors, simple as that.

In fact, in the 100-meter butterfly, Phelps wore only the pants, while second-place finisher Milorad Cavic swam in the full body suit.

There’s no controversy behind Phelps’ stack of gold, but fans of the sport are going to debate the role technology plays when it comes to setting world records.

That’s a perfectly appropriate subject for an editorial cartoonist to take on. We just don’t think Mosher did.

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