Olympic gold medalist and swimmer Joseph Schooling, 27, apologized after facing backlash from his native Singapore for smoking weed while in Vietnam. Singapore’s drug laws are among the strictest in the world, and the stigma there is strong.
Schooling was in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he won two gold medals, while competing for the Hanoi 2022 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games on leave from military service, and there he was caught smoking some weed.
Heads are spinning at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Singapore Ministry of Defence after they learned of Schooling’s pot use from the country’s Central Narcotics Bureau. The Singapore Ministry of Defence released an August 30 press release, announcing that Schooling will undergo drug testing for the next six months.
“The Central Narcotics Bureau has concluded its investigations on PTE Joseph Schooling, and handed over the management of the case to the SAF, as he is a full-time National Serviceman,” the release reads. “Urine tests for controlled drugs conducted on PTE Joseph Schooling returned negative. However, PTE Schooling confessed to have consumed cannabis overseas in May 2022, when he was on short term disruption from full-time National Service (NS) to train and participate in the Southeast Asian Games.
“Following existing protocol, PTE Schooling will be placed on a supervised urine test regime for six months. All SAF personnel who test positive during this regime will be charged and sentenced accordingly.”
Lancaster Online reports that Schooling posted an apology on Instagram, in a now-deleted post.
“I gave in to a moment of weakness after going through a very tough period of my life,” Schooling said in a message posted Tuesday night on Instagram. “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.”
“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,” the post reads.
Yahoo! News Editor Chia Han Keong wrote an op-ed, saying that Schooling deserves empathy—not backlash—for a crime as small as cannabis. In the meantime, Schooling’s entire reputation is on the line.
Schooling vs. Phelps
In 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Schooling beat Michael Phelps—the most decorated Olympian of all time—at the 100-meter butterfly. Schooling has described Phelps as his “idol” and was enthralled to beat him at his own game.
Schooling was sent to the Olympics while studying at the University of Texas in Austin. At the Tokyo Olympics 2021, he was eliminated while trying to defend his 100-meter butterfly title.
Ironically, Phelps himself was forced to apologize in the United States when he was caught smoking weed by a British tabloid, and a photo surfaced of Phelps hitting a bong, quickly going viral in 2008. For any other 23-year-old, it would have been considered normal behavior.
“I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way,” Phelps said in a statement. Like Schooling, Phelps probably had no choice but to publicly express remorse for smoking weed.
“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. “I’m 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me,” Phelps said. “For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public—it will not happen again.”
Despite smoking weed in his youth, Phelps is one of if not the fastest swimmer alive. Compare this to the fastest runner alive, Olympian Usain Bolt, who is a known supporter of cannabis businesses.
That said, it’s probably not fair to associate cannabis with slowing down our physical bodies. In the professional world of sports, however, it’s a whole different story.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.