Joseph Schooling admits to consuming cannabis: Other elite athletes who have fallen foul of drug laws

Joseph Schooling admits to consuming cannabis: Other elite athletes who have fallen foul of drug laws
Swimmers Joseph Schooling and Amanda Lim have both been found to have consumed cannabis.
PHOTO: Facebook/Team Singapore

SINGAPORE - The news of former Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and fellow national swimmer Amanda Lim being sanctioned and warned for the consumption of cannabis rocked the Singapore sports fraternity on Tuesday (Aug 30).

But they are not the only elite athletes to have fallen foul of the law for a drug offence.

In 2015, former national youth footballer Hanafi Akbar, who competed at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, was arrested for the consumption of methamphetamine, or "ice", and was jailed for a year.

Another footballer, former national midfielder Gusta Guzarishah, was also arrested for drug offences and sent to a drug rehabilitation centre in 1997.

Ironically, Schooling's hero, American legend Michael Phelps, was himself caught up in a drug scandal in 2009. Then, the holder of a record 23 Olympic gold medals was photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe and the picture was published in a British tabloid.

He issued an apology, saying: "I engaged in behaviour which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."

However, as the incident took place outside of competition, he was not sanctioned by Fina, swimming's world body, or the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has placed the drug on its banned list.

This was not the case for American star sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, who was forced to miss last year's Tokyo Olympics because she tested positive for marijuana during the US Track & Field trials.


The United States Anti-Doping Agency subsequently banned her from competing for a month and voided her qualifying victory. Although the 30-day suspension ended during the Tokyo Games, US Athletics chose not to include her on the team, even though as the sixth-fastest woman in history, with a personal best of 10.72 seconds, she had been considered a medal contender ahead of the event.

Her punishment re-ignited a longstanding discussion over the prohibition of marijuana in elite sports, with proponents of lifting the ban arguing that the drug's performance-enhancing properties are debatable and that the drug is now legal in many places.

More recently, the world has been gripped by the case of American Women's National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian jail in early August after being convicted of drug smuggling. The case has sparked a diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington.

The 31-year-old, who was in Russia to play for a professional team during the WNBA off-season, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing vape cartridges with a small amount of cannabis oil.

Her defence team said the athlete used medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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