No adult should ever have to apologize for the act of simply consuming cannabis. Unfortunately, it is something that elite athletes have to do all of the time, and in a very public way. The latest example of that can be found in the saga involving Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling, who was recently ‘caught’ admitting to cannabis use that allegedly occurred months prior outside of his home country. As a result, Schooling is facing competition-based penalties in addition to enormous, and completely unwarranted, public shaming.
The elite swimmer, who is 27 years old, did not even test positive for cannabis use. Rather, it was reported that he simply admitted to consuming cannabis as part of an investigation by authorities in Singapore, with a fellow national swimmer also reportedly being a target of the investigation. Professional athletes around the world are consistently subjected to cannabis stigma, including the opponent that Schooling defeated on his way to becoming a national hero in Singapore.
Passing The Stigma Torch
Swimmer Joseph Schooling became an international sensation in 2016 when he defeated arguably the most famous swimmer of all time, the United States’ Michael Phelps, in the 100-meter butterfly. After winning the gold medal in 2016, Schooling was hailed by virtually everyone in Singapore as a national hero, and rightfully so. After all, Schooling wasn’t just the first swimmer from Singapore to become an Olympic champion – he was the country’s first Olympic champion ever for any category. It’s a distinction that he holds to this day.
Yet, despite all of the sacrifice and hard work and glory, Schooling is being torn to shreds by people inside and outside of Singapore due to the revelation that he consumed cannabis in May 2022 while traveling. As if somehow he should only be measured by admitting to consuming a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol. For cannabis consuming sports fans in the United States such as myself, the public shaming that Schooling is going through is all too familiar.
Michael Phelps, who Schooling famously defeated in 2016, was also subjected to a horrific level of stigma when a picture surfaced of him hitting a bong in 2009. Much like Schooling, Phelps was endlessly ridiculed and presumably forced to issue a public apology for ‘letting everyone down’ at the time. This, despite Phelps winning 23 gold medals in the name of the very country that largely turned on him for being labeled in the mainstream media as a ‘pothead.’
No Apologies Needed
Make no mistake about it – when professional athletes are forced to issue public apologies after a cannabis-consumption ‘offense’ occurs, it is 100% public relations in nature and it only serves to further the objectives of cannabis prohibitionists in society. Schooling’s cannabis use in May of 2022, assuming it actually occurred, obviously did not harm anyone. Had authorities in Singapore not forced a confession out of him, no one would have even known or cared about it.
However, they did find out about it, and in a country where people can still receive the death penalty for cannabis only offenses, Schooling went from national hero to ‘a national disgrace’ and that is pathetic to say the least. It’s obvious that the government is using Schooling to push its reefer madness agenda, which is presumably why there was a public apology in the first place, and there was also likely a concerted effort to drum up media coverage of the public apology. If that is all true, and authorities in Singapore are willing to do it to someone of Schooling’s fame and status, clearly it’s something that can happen to anyone in Singapore, and that’s a scary thought.
Whether Schooling’s confession was forced or not is ultimately moot because as far as I am concerned there was nothing for him to apologize for in the first place. People consume cannabis all over the world every single day, and that has been the case for thousands of years. Cannabis use on its own is not wrong. Cannabis prohibition is wrong, and that is true when it comes to sports just as much as it is true when it comes to the rest of society.