Singapore’s first-ever Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, who beat Michael Phelps at the 100m butterfly in 2016, said Wednesday he will skip the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh.

“After careful consideration with my team, I have decided to pull out of the SEA Games. This was not an easy decision, but I am currently not at the level at which I hold myself to perform,” he said in a statement.

“Ultimately, my country comes first before individual accolades.”

The 27-year-old swimmer said he had decided to give his spot to his teammates “while I cheer from home and focus on my Navy duties.”

Schooling, who has been performing his two years of mandatory military service, was mired in a drug controversy last year. He tested negative for drugs but confessed to consuming cannabis overseas.

Schooling was given a warning and placed on a supervised urine test regime for six months.

He was also made no longer eligible for leave or disruption to train or compete during his military service.

At the time he apologised and said that he “gave in to a moment of weakness after going through a very tough period of my life.”

Singapore has some of the toughest drug laws in the world, and its citizens and permanent residents face up to 10 years in prison if found to have consumed illegal substances outside the city-state.

Schooling relinquished his 100m butterfly title after failing to qualify in the same event at the 2020 Tokyo Games, and has dropped several hints that he might retire soon.


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