Singapore swimmers’ drunken saga at Asian Games: What’s the big deal?

Singapore's Joseph Schooling after winning the men's 100-meter butterfly swimming final at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Singapore's Joseph Schooling after winning the men's 100-meter butterfly swimming final at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

COMMENT

It’s one big joke.

Leaving the Asian Games Athletes' Village without proper approval: wrong.

Getting drunk while representing your country overseas: wrong.

Having a drink: NOT wrong.

Singapore’s big “scandal” at the ongoing Games in South Korea has three national swimmers being “investigated” for drunken behavior.

But let’s break down the supposed sequence of events, as widely reported.

With the swimming competition already concluded — a point that cannot be overstressed — gold medal winner Joseph Schooling, Teo Zhen Ren and Roanne Ho decided to head out of the Village on Friday night without permission.

The trio returned in the wee hours of the morning, so inebriated that they coudn't make it to their bunks without the help of Village security.

Did they smash up property or attack innocent bystanders? No.

Were they above legal drinking age? Yes. Schooling is all of 19, Teo is 20 and Ho is 21.

Wait, you ask, aren’t national athletes supposed to refrain from alcohol and be role models?

Sport Singapore states that “good character” is a criteria for athletes to be carded, but one drunken night out does not make a rotten individual.

The key point here, however, is how none of this can be 100 per cent verified beyond allegations and anonymous sources.

The Athletes’ Village has an official incident file on three drunk athletes, but absent nationality or sport. And the Games’ organising committee says “it’s just rumours”.

To go back further, one has to ask: how did the initial report come about? Who is the whistleblower, and what’s his or her motive in bringing down Singapore’s national athletes?

Judging from the discussion in online forums and radio airwaves, it’s clear and heartening to see Singaporeans flocking to the swimmers' support and asking “What’s the big fuss?”

Yes, Schooling, if indeed involved, is learning the hard way about what success in the sporting limelight — with all its fame, riches and glory — entails.

Coincidentally, swim legend Michael Phelps was also arrested for drunk driving — again — the same night the Singapore report broke.

But the entire debacle has already taken up too much time and space.

I say we focus on what really matters and bring it back to what we’re here for: sport.

Singapore has already won 22 medals – five gold, six silver and 11 bronze – at this Asiad, outperforming the 2010 haul of 17.

And that’s a big deal, rather than some half-baked story about one drink too many.