'No clear evidence' Joseph Schooling, Amanda Lim were taking drugs; no preferential treatment given: Shanmugam
The two swimmers returned negative urine tests, and Lim was warned for having a "drug utensil", says the Home Affairs Minister.
SINGAPORE: There was "no clear evidence" that national swimmers Joseph Schooling and Amanda Lim were taking drugs at the time of testing, said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Thursday (Sep 1).
Speaking on the sidelines of a launch of an AIBI Maxwell wellness facility, he added that the duo were not given any favourable or preferential treatment and were treated like others in similar situations.
It was revealed on Tuesday that Schooling and Lim had been investigated by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) for possible offences related to the consumption of cannabis.
The evidence was inconclusive and their urine tests were negative, Mr Shanmugam wrote earlier in a Facebook post explaining steps taken against the duo.
Schooling and Lim however were "honest" and admitted to having taken drugs in the past, said the Home Affairs Minister.
He added that Lim, 29, had a "drug utensil" and received a warning for that.
As a full-time national serviceman (NSF), Schooling, 27, was handed over to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to decide on steps to be taken.
Some members of the public may think that this mistake by Schooling and Lim would "sort of erase" all of their achievements, Mr Shanmugam told journalists on Thursday.
"I think most Singaporeans won't agree with that. Their achievements are tremendous, they have given much and they have much to give with their dedication, their energy, their focus, and one mistake doesn't erase all of that," he added.
"If I were to tell Singaporeans, 20 years ago someone committed an offence by taking drugs when they were in university overseas. Do Singaporeans expect that such a person would be subjected to DRC (drug rehabilitation centre)?" said Mr Shanmugam.
This is still an offence because there is no time limit or statutory bar, he noted.
"But one takes an approach to these things. If there is current consumption, one approach is taken. If there is no evidence of current consumption, another approach is taken."
Mr Shanmugam also wrote on Facebook that some members of the public had asked why Lim was let off with a warning and no action was taken against Schooling by CNB, given Singapore's tough anti-drug policies.
"We are very tough on drug traffickers and those involved in the drug trade. That includes imposing capital punishment," said the Home Affairs Minister.
"This is in contrast to how we treat pure drug abusers, who haven't committed any other offence. Since 2019, our approach is to treat such pure drug abusers as persons who really need help."
These people will not be imprisoned or have a criminal record even though consumption is an offence, said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law.
"Instead, we take steps to help them rehabilitate, which could include DRC or supervision. This would help them to reintegrate into society more quickly and effectively."
The Government does not send people to a DRC or even give warnings if there is no positive test, or if they are not currently taking drugs, he stressed.
"But also note: If there is clear evidence of current use of drugs, then CNB will take steps, regardless of whether the consumption took place in Singapore or overseas," said Mr Shanmugam.
"So don't assume that if you consume drugs overseas, you will be let off with a warning."
Schooling, who is Singapore's first and only Olympic champion, confessed to consuming cannabis while overseas in May.
MINDEF said that given his abuse of privileges, he would no longer be eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete while in NS.
Schooling and Lim both issued apologies on Tuesday.