SINGAPORE - National marathoner Soh Rui Yong, the two-time SEA Games champion who is embroiled in a dispute with the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore Athletics (SA) over his non-selection for this year's Games, has sent legal letters to both organisations.
In his letter to the SNOC, dated on Wednesday (Aug 7), the 27-year-old athlete accused it of breaching the "fundamental principles of natural justice" by not convening a hearing or giving him "fair opportunity to defend the allegations".
Soh, who is represented by Clarence Lun of Foxwood LLC, has also accused SA of defaming him in a separate letter to track and field's local governing body, dated on the same day.
Last week, his nomination for the Philippines SEA Games - put forth by SA - was rejected by the SNOC, which noted that "since the 2017 SEA Games, there have been numerous instances where Soh has displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to".
While these instances were not specifically listed, both parties have clashed several times in recent years. Ahead of the 2017 Games, he was formally warned over a breach of regulations regarding his promotion of personal sponsors on social media. Also, he cut holes in his race vest before the marathon in Kuala Lumpur and reportedly upset SA's sponsor 2XU.
He is also involved in a long-running spat with teammate Ashley Liew. Soh had disputed the latter's account of an act of sportsmanship at the 2015 SEA Games. The matter is now before the courts.
In April, the SNOC, which had nominated Liew for an international award for his sportsmanship, served Soh a legal letter demanding that he publicly retract his allegations against Liew.
Soh's legal letter to the SNOC noted that the athlete, who bettered the SEA Games qualifying mark of 2hr 31min 52sec with his 2:23:42 effort at the Seoul International Marathon in March, had "more than adequately satisfied" the qualification criteria set by the SNOC.
Pointing to the SNOC's statement on Aug 2 explaining its rejection of his nomination for the SEA Games, the letter said that the SNOC had "failed to provide any details or particulars" where he had fallen short of the standards of attitude and behaviour or explained what the standards were.
In the letter, Soh accused the SNOC of applying "highly subjective, inconsistent and/or arbitrary standards in the selection process" and that it had "disregarded the fundamental principles of merit-based selection". The decision to exclude Soh, who won the SEA Games gold in 2015 and 2017 and is the national record holder, from the Games was "arbitrary and without basis", said the letter.
When contacted, the SNOC said that it has referred the matter to its lawyers.
A day after the SNOC rejected Soh's nomination, SA said in a statement that it accepted the decision and acknowledged that he had "on several occasions breached SA's Code of Conduct".
The national sports association added that it had attempted to counsel and reason with Soh "for his transgressions" as part of a "rehabilitation process".
This is being disputed by Soh, whose legal letter to SA claimed that it has made several allegations against him and that "no explanation or details were provided" over the breach of rules in the code of conduct, nor were details provided on the alleged "transgressions".
The letter also claimed that SA's Aug 2 statement was "false and defamatory" and that Soh is seeking clarification on four points: the alleged breaches of the code, the alleged transgressions, reasons for ceasing communication with Soh (SA said previously that it had "temporarily suspended" communication due to the legal case involving Soh and Liew) and SA's basis for not lodging an appeal to the SNOC.
SA's management committee said it is seeking advice from its lawyers.