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'Everybody makes mistakes': Swimming fraternity shocked by Schooling, Lim's cannabis case but rally behind them

Those CNA spoke to called for compassion and say they believe national swimmers Joseph Schooling and Amanda Lim can bounce back from this episode. 

'Everybody makes mistakes': Swimming fraternity shocked by Schooling, Lim's cannabis case but rally behind them

File photos of Joseph Schooling and Amanda Lim. (Photo: SportSG/Andy Chua)

SINGAPORE: Having coached swimmer Amanda Lim for four years, news that the national athlete had been investigated by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) for cannabis consumption came as a shock to her former coach David Lim.

Describing her as a "superbly professional" athlete, Mr Lim said: "I trained Amanda for a while, I guess it's just one of those things ... you're in that position and you made the wrong decision. (But) everybody makes mistakes, everyone."

The 29-year-old swimmer was issued a stern warning by CNB under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Fellow swimmer Joseph Schooling, meanwhile, confessed to consuming cannabis overseas in May when he was on short-term disruption from full-time National Service (NS) to train and participate in the SEA Games.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said on Tuesday (Aug 30) that the 27-year-old will no longer be eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete while in NS. He will also be placed on a supervised urine test regime for six months.

Members of the swimming fraternity said they were shocked by the news, but believe that the athletes will bounce back from this incident.

"I’m very surprised by what happened and (it is) really something (that is) very much a curveball," said former Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) chief Lee Kok Choy, who was president of the association for eight years.

"In the testing of performance drugs, I think they are able to detect other stuff - it’s like almost clear cut something that you would never do. So my reaction is wow, what happened?"

Mr Lim, a former national swimmer with 19 SEA Games gold medals, added: "Being actively still training, whether it is recreational (drug use) or whatever, it does no good to your body as a top athlete."

NEED FOR COMPASSION: FORMER SWIMMER

From his interactions with the pair in the past, Mr Lee noted that Lim and Schooling are mature athletes.

"They are both very responsible ... well behaved ... no problems with either of them, I never had to worry about managing them," he said.

"I would never have to tell them to get their act together. So (they are) very good athletes who are very polite, very respectful, very determined athletes, and always willing to also give back."

Mr Lee added that he does not know the full circumstances of what happened and would not want to pass judgment.

"Of course, it (drug use) is the wrong thing to do but other than that, I would be a bit more hesitant to go further," he said.

Former swimmer and Olympian May Ooi acknowledged that the pair had made a mistake but also stressed the need for compassion.

"Compassion is very important - we're a nation of very well-educated people, but then, have a thought about the people who ... sacrificed their lives, to bring you joy," she said

Ms Ooi recalled, in particular, the historic moment when the nation celebrated Schooling's gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He remains Singapore's only Olympic champion.

"Your moment of joy is brought on by somebody else who sacrificed years and years and years of his life, have a bit of compassion. He made a mistake, he made a bad call, it was a bad judgment. Everybody makes really bad calls," she added.

She also noted that Schooling had been going through major life events like his poor showing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the death of his father Colin later that year, as well as his enlistment into National Service.

After wrapping up his SEA Games campaign in Hanoi in May, Schooling had spoken about the importance of discussing and managing expectations put on athletes who are serving NS.

Mr Lim said it is important that Schooling and Lim be given a second chance. "They must be given a chance to do it and prove themselves. And I think they will," he told CNA.

Ms Ooi added: "It will make them stronger, it's their time to reflect and grow. But unfortunately ... most people get to do this in the privacy of their own homes and four walls. But you know, because you're a high-profile athlete, the whole world is watching you while you do this, and they think they can comment, so that makes it a lot harder."

Mr Lee said he is confident the two swimmers will bounce back from this incident. 

"I don't know about bouncing back in the sport, but bouncing back in life, I'm sure they will. And they will be okay. It will be a lesson learnt," he added.

"They will learn from this. They will have to stomach whatever consequences come with it and I think they will become better persons."

Source: CNA/mt(gs)
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