Soh Rui Yong sends legal letters to SNOC, Singapore Athletics

Soh Rui Yong celebrates winning the 2015 SEA Games men's marathon. (FILE PHOTO: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee/Action Images via Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Two-time defending SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong has sent legal letters to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore Athletics (SA) on Wednesday (7 August).

In a blog post on his official website, the 27-year-old wrote that, even though he is not appealing SNOC’s decision last week not to select him for the upcoming SEA Games in the Philippines, he is initiating legal proceedings “to protect the rights of current and future athletes of Singapore, and to push Singapore sports governing bodies to more accountability and transparency”.

He further accused the SNOC of applying “highly subjective, inconsistent and/or arbitrary standards in the selection process for the 2019 SEA Games” and “disregarded the fundamental principles of merit-based selection which an organisation of its stature would be expected to adhere to strictly”.

Not given fair opportunity to defend allegations

In his legal letter to the SNOC, Soh – represented by Clarence Lun of Foxwood LLC – said that he was not given a fair opportunity to defend allegations made against him by SNOC, which said that the marathoner had, on numerous occasions, “displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to”.

The letter said, “No formal enquiry or hearing was convened by SNOC for the purposes of deciding whether our client should have been excluded from participating in the 2019 SEA Games despite meeting the qualification criteria prescribed by it.”

The letter noted that Soh – who clinched golds at both the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games – had clocked 2hr 23min 42sec in March’s Seoul Marathon, thereby “more than adequately satisfied” the qualifying mark of 2:31:52 set by the SNOC.

Soh and the SNOC have had several public clashes in recent years. Ahead of his winning run at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Games, Soh was given a formal warning by the SNOC over a breach of regulations regarding the promotion of personal sponsors on social media during the Games.

In April this year, the SNOC served Soh a legal letter demanding that he retract allegations against fellow marathoner Ashley Liew over an act of sportsmanship at the 2015 SEA Games. For the act, the organisation nominated Liew for the Pierre de Coubertin accolade, an international sportsmanship award.

Allegation of ‘false and defamatory’ SA statement

As for his legal letter to SA, Soh said in his blog post that the sports association had made several allegations against him over the last few days, saying that he had committed “a series of purported ‘transgressions’ without giving any explanation and/or details as to the same”.

A day after the SNOC rejected Soh's nomination on 1 August, SA said in a statement that it accepted the decision and acknowledged that he had “on several occasions breached SA's Code of Conduct”. It also said previously that it had "temporarily suspended" communication with Soh, due to the legal case involving Soh and Liew.

This is being disputed by Soh, whose legal letter claimed that SA's 2 August statement was "false and defamatory” and that he is seeking clarification on four points: the alleged breaches of the code, the alleged transgressions, reasons for ceasing communication with Soh and SA’s basis for not lodging an appeal to the SNOC.

In both letters, Soh invited SNOC and SA to resolve the disputes by 13 August, 5pm.

Both SNOC and SA said that they are seeking advice from their lawyers.

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