Joseph Schooling Faces Competition Ban After Cannabis Use

Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

Joseph Schooling Faces Competition Ban After Cannabis Use

Joseph Schooling recently admitted to use of cannabis, which has led to Singaporean authorities banning him from competition for the length of his national service.

Schooling is currently in the national service, which is required of all adult men in Singapore. The 2016 Olympic champion in the 100 butterfly had his compulsory service deferred since 2014 and began serving in January 2022. Service usually lasts around two years.

The ban stems from an incident in May of 2022 when he is to “have consumed cannabis overseas in May 2022, when he was on short term disruption from full-time National Service” ahead of the Southeast Asian Games, per a Singapore Armed Forces statement. Schooling did not fail a drug test and is not facing any sanction at this time for global anti-doping bodies.

Instead, the mechanism of the suspension is through the Singapore Armed Forces, which will deny him any requests for leave to train or compete. He has also had a formal letter of warning issues to him and will be subject to a drug testing regimen for six months.

“I am sorry that my actions have caused hurt to everyone around me, especially to my family and the young fans who look up to me,” Schooling said in a statement he posted to his Instagram stories. “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. I made a mistake and I’m responsible for what I’ve done. I will make amends and right what is wrong … I won’t let you down again.”

With Schooling’s national service set to run until approximately the end of 2023, this discipline would seem to rule him out of the 2023 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, as well as the postponed Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, in the fall of 2023.

Sport Singapore reported that both Schooling and 29-year-old national team veteran Amanda Lin were investigated and handed warnings by the Central Narcotic Bureau.

“To all my supporters, family and friends, I am deeply sorry for my actions,” Lim said in a statement. “There is no excuse and I will take the warning given to me seriously and reflect on my mistakes. My swimming career has been filled with many ups and downs over the past decade. Throughout the wins and losses, I’ve always strived to be better in and out of the pool.”

Singapore is one of the world’s harshest punishers of drug related crimes, a country where narcotics trafficking can bring the death penalty, despite international pushback. Possession or consumption of cannabis carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, and traffic or import of more than 500 grams of cannabis (or 200 grams of cannabis resin) can trigger the death penalty. Caning remains a mandatory minimum penalty in various drug cases.

Joseph Schooling, now 27, became a national hero in Rio in 2016 when he beat a field that included Michael Phelps to become the country’s first Olympic gold medalist in any sport and first swimming medal. He struggled in the build up to the Tokyo Games in 2021, where the 12-time NCAA champion at the University of Texas finished 44th in the 100 fly and 39th in the 100 freestyle.

He said he would reassess his career goals following the SEA Games in May. The 2024 Olympics would be his fourth. Tuesday’s news may provide Schooling an avenue of exit, even if a less than preferred one, from his career in the pool.

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