Singapore’s first Olympic champion, swimmer Joseph Schooling, confessed to using marijuana overseas and could miss key upcoming competitions after being punished by the country’s defense ministry.
Schooling — a national hero after he beat American Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2016 Olympics — said in an Instagram post that he gave in to a “moment of weakness after going through a very tough period of my life” earlier this year.
While nations from Thailand to the US have eased legal restrictions on marijuana use, Singapore maintains a hard line. The city-state executes convicted drug traffickers and says those found to possess or consume cannabis can face up to 10 years of imprisonment and/or a S$20,000 ($14,000) fine.
None of that will apply to Schooling: he didn’t test positive for marijuana use and wasn’t found possessing it either. The 27-year-old swimmer will likely have to miss some regional competitions including next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
The defense ministry said it is revoking his ability to take a break from required national military service in order to train or compete. He will also be placed on a supervised urine test regime for six months.
“The Singapore Armed Forces maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy towards drug abuse,” the ministry said in a statement outlining its punishment following an investigation.
It wasn’t immediately clear how authorities learned of Schooling’s marijuana use in May, which was first reported by local media.
Schooling was on leave from national service to prepare for the SEA Games then. The competition came several months after Schooling’s father passed away.
“I made a mistake and I’m responsible for what I’ve done,” Schooling wrote. “I will make amends and right what is wrong. I won’t let you down again.”
Phelps, the all-time record holder for Olympic gold medals, also had run-ins with authorities over drug and alcohol use. He was suspended by USA Swimming for a few months in 2009 after a photo emerged of him smoking marijuana. He was also arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2014. He has since become an outspoken advocate for mental health issues. –BLOOMBERG