Schooling's mum insists swim trio were not drunk at Asian Games

Schooling's mum insists swim trio were not drunk at Asian Games
Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling with his proud parents Colin and May at the Munhak Park Tae Hwan Aquatics Centre.

Last Wednesday, swim trio Joseph Schooling, Teo Zhen Ren and Roanne Ho received warning letters from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for an incident that occurred at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

After an investigation, the trio were found to have left the Athletes' Village without permission on Sept 27, and the four-member panel cited the athletes for infringing the code of conduct for Team Singapore athletes and officials at major Games.

In an e-mail to the media yesterday, May Schooling, mother of swim star Joseph, clarified that the swimmers were not drunk and did not misbehave in any way in the incident.

Media reports at the time stated that the 19-year-old and his teammates were "heavily in-toxicated" when returning to the village in the early hours, but May insisted that did not represent the "correct facts".

Addressing the incident point-bypoint, May revealed the three swimmers were hungry after the last day of the swimming programme.

They had just finished packing and decided to head out for food at 3am.

The three athletes went to a nearby food centre where Schooling was recognised by "some people".

They accepted a toast in his honour, after his gold-medal feat in the 100m butterfly final.

"They congratulated him (Joseph) and offered them a toast. Joseph told me that it was a whitish sweet drink, and out of courtesy, they accepted the drinks without realising what they were drinking," said May.

"Joseph and the rest of the swimmers did not think that anything would come out of this incident as they were not misbehaving themselves, except for coming back late.

"They were definitely not drunk, intoxicated or went out drinking, as reported by the press!"

The 2014 Asian Games was held in Incheon from Sept 19 to Oct 4 and Joseph won the 100m fly, claimed a silver in the 50m fly and a bronze in the 200m fly.

He is aiming for gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and has been granted deferment from National Service until August 2016 to give him an uninterrupted period to train and compete in his bid to realise his dream.

The panel, comprising SNOC chairperson Jeffrey Beh; Yip Ren Kai from the SNOC Athletes Commission; chief medical officer for Team Singapore at the 2014 Asian Games Dr Lim Yii Hong and Jessie Phua, the Republic's chef de mission at the Games.

May maintained that the three athletes were not given preferential treatment, after no ban or fines were handed out.

"I believe that the panel did consider all reports from Korea and the Singapore contingent/team managers etc, and as the facts support no wrongdoing - other then they didn't ask for permission to go out - that's why only a warning was given to the swimmers."

She maintained that she was not simply siding with her son, insisting it was "not fair to have his records blemished by inaccurate reporting by the press".

She also wanted to set the record straight as the three swimmers involved are "very young and we should be looking after and helping them rather than destroying them at the start of their lives."

Her e-mail was endorsed by the SNOC, who issued a supporting letter yesterday.

Said secretary general Chris Chan: "The panel was convinced that there was no unruly behaviour from any of the three athletes all this while when they were out of the village, nor were they drunk as earlier alleged by the misinformed media.

"The panel decided that a letter of warning and a reminder not to repeat the breach to each of the said athletes would suffice, considering that all three athletes had good disciplinary records and had apologised sincerely for their breach of the code of conduct."

This article was first published on November 4, 2014.
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