National table tennis player Li Hu sacked

The STTA revealed that Li was caught taking a woman - understood to be his girlfriend - into his dormitory on previous occasions, and on Jan 18 was issued a final warning letter for another indiscretion. Li was also informed in writing that any furth
The STTA revealed that Li was caught taking a woman - understood to be his girlfriend - into his dormitory on previous occasions, and on Jan 18 was issued a final warning letter for another indiscretion. Li was also informed in writing that any further misconduct would warrant a sacking.ST FILE PHOTO

National table tennis player Li Hu has been sacked by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) following a disciplinary committee (DC) meeting last night.

It is believed to be the first time that the STTA has sacked a player, although the association said it was unable to confirm this when asked.

The STTA noted that its decision was also based on Li's record of other disciplinary issues during his employment. It revealed that Li was caught taking a woman - understood to be his girlfriend - into his dormitory on previous occasions, and on Jan 18 was issued a final warning letter for another indiscretion.

Li was also informed in writing that any further misconduct would warrant a sacking.

The three-man DC comprised STTA vice-president and DC chairman Lim Soon Hock and management committee members Han Ngge Juan and Lee Yan Peng.

Mr Lim said in a statement last night: "His insubordination is unacceptable and is not tolerated. It was a unanimous decision... to early terminate Li Hu's contract for his repeated code of conduct breaches."

Li had been serving a suspension by the STTA for violating house rules earlier this month. Li had let a woman spend the night at the STTA hostel, located at its Toa Payoh headquarters, where he had been staying. The association said it had caught Li's infractions on closed-circuit TV camera.

He was confronted by a senior STTA official on Oct 14 for this misconduct and was subsequently asked to leave the hostel.

A distraught Li, who was present for the DC meeting, told The Straits Times: "It's not a result I want but, between resignation and termination, I really don't have much of a choice. It's a huge blow to me because I have zero intention of ending my playing career now. This decision essentially means I have no more future as a player for Singapore."

The player, whose contract was up for renewal in March, said he is unsure of his future but will not rule out becoming a coach. He added: "I've made Singapore my home and I still intend to stay here."

Li came to Singapore from Hubei in 2010 and became a citizen in 2011. He was the 2003 world junior singles champion and is currently ranked 58th in the world. He is the second-highest ranked Singaporean after veteran paddler Gao Ning, who is the world No. 41.

The sacking is a blow to the STTA's plans to rejuvenate the men's team as Gao is 34 while team-mate Yang Zi, ranked 168th, is 32.

Li, who had a career-high ranking of No. 26, has never represented the Republic at the Olympics.

His top achievements have come in the doubles, having partnered Gao to back-to-back titles at the International Table Tennis Federation World Tour Grand Finals in 2014, the sport's prestigious year-ender.

The duo also won a bronze - the Republic's first men's doubles medal at the Asian Games - at the 2014 Incheon edition. They also claimed the Commonwealth Games men's doubles title in Glasgow that year.

STTA president Ellen Lee told ST that Li's dismissal was necessary to send a message to all national paddlers. She said: "He might be a good player but we must show there are no double standards for anyone. Even if this means we can't win medals in the short term, so be it. I would rather groom younger players who are good role models."

Li is separately assisting the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau with an investigation. He was called up for questioning last Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'National table tennis player Li Hu sacked'. Print Edition | Subscribe