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Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling gets schooled after admitting to using cannabis while overseas

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‘I gave in to a moment of weakness after going through a very tough period of my life. I demonstrated bad judgment and I am sorry’

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Swimmer Joseph Schooling, the only person to have ever won Olympic gold for Singapore, has been barred from competition after admitting to using cannabis overseas.

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According to Reuters, the 27-year-old swimmer “will not be given further leave from national service to compete because he admitted to using cannabis.”

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“Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singapore citizens and permanent residents, unless exempted, are required to serve National Service (NS),” notes the Singapore government.

“Following the completion of full-time NS, they will be required to serve up to 40 days of Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS) per year for the duration of their ORNS training cycle till the age of 50 years (for officers) or 40 years (for other ranks),” the information adds.

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The reported decision to pull a deferment of service followed a statement earlier in August by Singapore’s Ministry of Defence. The ministry reported that it would “grant extensions of deferment from full-time NS” to both Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, a 29-year-old professional swimmer, “to train and compete in the Olympic Games.”

Should the Olympic Games be cancelled, the statement noted, the two will be scheduled for enlistment. “Deferment may be granted to exceptional sportsmen who are assessed to be potential medal winners for Singapore at top-tier international competitions like the Olympic Games.”

Swimmer given warning and will undergo supervised urine testing

France 24 cited the defence ministry reasoning for its latest decision. “Given his abuse of disruption privileges, (Private) Schooling will no longer be eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete while in NS,” the news outlet reports, adding that Schooling “was given a warning and will be placed on a supervised urine test regime for six months.”

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In a screenshot of a social media post attributed to Schooling, the swimmer noted earlier this week that he apologized to everyone around him, including his family and fans.

“I gave in to a moment of weakness after going through a very tough period of my life. I demonstrated bad judgment and I am sorry,” reads the post from the swimmer, whose father died from cancer last November. “I will make amends and right what is wrong. I won’t let you down again.”

Schooling received the Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Games after besting swimming great Michael Phelps of the United States in the 100-metre butterfly, per Inside the Games.

Additional censures are possible

Although he did not test positive for the banned substance, he did admit to consuming cannabis in May while training and competing overseas in Vietnam and while on short-term leave from national service.

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CNN reports that Schooling’s military service began in January and is expected to last until 2024. That means he will unlikely be able to compete in a number of championships, includingthe  World Aquatics Championships.

Sport Singapore and the Singapore Swimming Association have noted they will “review the facts of the case and determine appropriate steps to take,” CNN adds.

According to The Straits Times, Sport Singapore revealed this week that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) had investigated both Schooling and fellow national swimmer Amanda Lim, 29, for consuming cannabis. Lim, who was part of the gold-winning women’s 4 x 100-metre freestyle team in Vietnam, was issued a stern warning.

Sha’Carri Richardson, a sprinter and gold medal hopeful for the U.S. during the last Olympics, was unable to compete after she tested positive for cannabis and was issued a one-month ban.

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Singapore has some of the harshest penalties for drugs

Cannabis is banned in Singapore, a country notorious for its strict treatment of drugs in general. The High Commission of Canada in Singapore reports that the “drug laws are among the toughest in the world. Penalties for the possession of small amounts of drugs are up to 10 years in jail or fines of up to $20,000 or both.”

According to Singapore’s CNB, a government agency, a person convicted of illegally trafficking, importing or exporting cannabis “may face the death penalty,” depending on the amount of drug involved. With regards to cannabis, a mandatory death penalty applies if convicted of trafficking 500 grams or more of weed.

This past July, a 49-year-old man in a Singapore prison since 2015 for trafficking cannabis was put to death. And in October of 2021, a 41-year-old man was sentenced to death after being convicted of importing at least one kilogram of pot into the country in 2018.

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