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Olympic champion Joseph Schooling issued warning over cannabis use, has all sporting privileges revoked: Mindef

SINGAPORE — National swimmer and Olympic champion Joseph Schooling has confessed to consuming cannabis overseas in May this year, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 30).

Joseph Schooling celebrates after winning the men's 100m butterfly event at the SEA Games in Hanoi on  May 16, 2022.

Joseph Schooling celebrates after winning the men's 100m butterfly event at the SEA Games in Hanoi on May 16, 2022.

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  • National swimmer Joseph Schooling confessed to having consumed cannabis overseas in May this year, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef)
  • He was on short-term disruption from full-time National Service (NS) to train and participate in the Southeast Asian Games
  • A warning had been issued to Schooling, and he has been put on a urine test regime for six months
  • He will also no longer be eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete while in NS, said Mindef

SINGAPORE — National swimmer and Olympic champion Joseph Schooling has confessed to consuming cannabis overseas in May this year, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 30). 

Mindef confirmed that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) had concluded its investigations on the 27-year-old and handed over the management of the case to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), since Schooling is a full-time national serviceman.

"Urine tests for controlled drugs conducted on Private Joseph Schooling returned negative," Mindef said.

"However, Private Schooling confessed to have consumed cannabis overseas in May 2022, when he was on short-term disruption from full-time National Service to train and participate in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games."

The statement added that a warning had been issued to Schooling, and he has been put on a urine test regime for six months. 

"Given his abuse of disruption privileges, Private Schooling will no longer be eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete while in National Service," said Mindef.

"A formal letter of warning has also been issued to Private Schooling, informing him of the serious consequences of drug abuse meted out to all SAF personnel, who may be sentenced up to nine months detention in the SAF Detention Barracks.”

In a separate statement, national sports governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG) said that besides Schooling, CNB had also probed another national swimming Amanda Lim, and issued her a stern warning under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

SportSG added that it intends to thoroughly review the circumstances behind the two cases and determine the appropriate steps to be taken thereafter.

In response to TODAY's queries, Singapore Swimming Association president Mark Chay said that it has a "zero-tolerance" stance towards illegal drug use, and that it expects its national athletes to uphold the highest standards of conduct. 

In a statement on Tuesday night, Schooling apologised for "causing hurt to everyone around me", adding that he "gave in to a moment of weakness".  

"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," he said.

The national swimmer stole the hearts of Singaporeans after bringing home the country’s first and only gold Olympic medal in 2016 for the men’s 100m butterfly event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He set a new Olympic record in the process with a swim time of 50.39 seconds, and beat Olympic legend and American swimmer Michael Phelps.

The historic victory also led to various sponsorship deals, reportedly with the likes of DBS bank, Hugo Boss, Tag Heuer, Toyota, Milo and Yakult.

In response to queries from TODAY on Tuesday, DBS said that its sponsorship agreement with Schooling ended last year before he was enlisted for National Service.

But Schooling has not been able to replicate his success at the highest level in the pool on the back of great national expectations.

He failed to qualify for the 100m fly semi-finals at the Fina World Championships in South Korea in 2019 after clocking 52.93 seconds in the heats. 

At the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, he also failed to make it past the heats of his pet event, completing the men’s 100m butterfly event in 53.12 seconds, close to three seconds slower than his gold-winning time from 2016.

Later that year, Schooling faced another blow, when his father, Colin Schooling, died from liver cancer at the age of 73.

Schooling enlisted for National Service in January this year, after being deferred since 2014 to prepare for the Olympics. He did his vocational training in the Navy.

His last major international competition was the SEA Games in Vietnam this May, where he took home two golds and a bronze for the 100m butterfly, 4x100m medley and the 4x200m freestyle relay events respectively.

TODAY has reached out to Schooling's other sponsors for comment.

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Joseph Schooling swimming cannabis CNB Mindef (18431

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