Suspended national paddler Li Hu also assisting in CPIB investigations

Li Hu said he had failed to abide by team rules and his misconduct had led to his suspension. The 28-year-old, ranked No. 58 in the world, was being groomed to take over the national team veterans' mantle.
Li Hu said he had failed to abide by team rules and his misconduct had led to his suspension. The 28-year-old, ranked No. 58 in the world, was being groomed to take over the national team veterans' mantle.ST FILE PHOTO

It is believed that the probe is not the cause of suspension, which was for 'misconduct'

The future of Singapore's second- ranked men's table tennis player hangs in the balance, with Li Hu suspended by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA).

The Straits Times understands that the 28-year-old is also assisting the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in an investigation, although it is believed the subject of the investigation is not the cause of his suspension by the STTA.

The world No. 58 has been punished by the sport's local governing body and is set to have his case reviewed by a disciplinary committee.

STTA president Ellen Lee told The Straits Times yesterday: "Li Hu's (contract) has not been terminated yet. He has been suspended. We're going to form a disciplinary committee; it should be quite soon."

She confirmed that a CPIB probe is ongoing but declined to comment further on the matter.

When contacted, Li - who had been living at the STTA hostel at its Toa Payoh headquarters but was asked to pack his bags over the weekend - showed much contrition.

He acknowledged he had failed to abide by team rules and it was his misconduct that led to his suspension.

As a show of remorse, he wrote a letter to the STTA's management last Friday in the hope that the association would give him a chance. In the letter, he gave assurances that he would not be the source of any more disciplinary concerns in the future.

He told ST: "I made a mistake - everyone does. I'm genuinely sorry and I'm willing to admit my wrongdoing. I just hope that the STTA will give me a chance.

"I want to continue playing for Singapore and I can still play for many years.

"I believe I still have a lot to contribute to Singapore table tennis and can help bring more glory to the country."

He insisted, however, that he had not broken the law.

Should Li's services be terminated, it will be another blow to the men's national team, which has had a trying few months.

For the first time since the team event was introduced to the Olympic programme in 2008, the Singapore men failed to qualify as a team for August's Rio Games.

Renewal is also a pressing issue, with veterans like three-time Olympian and world No. 41 Gao Ning, 34, and No. 168 Yang Zi, 32, well into the twilight of their careers.

Li, a Hubei native who was the 2003 world junior singles champion and has a career-high ranking of No. 26, had been groomed over the years to take over the veterans' mantle.

Since arriving in Singapore in 2010 and taking up citizenship in 2011, he has helped break new ground for the men's team.

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.

Said Li: "My time in Singapore has not been without results. I've been here for so many years and this is where I had always intended to stay.

"I definitely never had the intention to call it a day."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'National paddler suspended, also assisting in CPIB probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe