Athletics: Soh Rui Yong says he is willing to meet Singapore Athletics to settle dispute

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has requested that Singapore Athletics (SA) executive director Malik Aljunied not be present during the meeting.
National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has requested that Singapore Athletics (SA) executive director Malik Aljunied not be present during the meeting.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - National marathoner Soh Rui Yong said on Tuesday (Aug 20) he is willing to meet governing body Singapore Athletics (SA) to try and settle their dispute, which stems from him not being selected for the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines.

The two-time SEA Games champion has requested, however, that SA executive director Malik Aljunied not be present during the meeting.

Soh, represented by Clarence Lun of Foxwood has separately through his lawyers issued a claim of defamation against Malik.

Both legal letters were dated Aug 19.

When contacted, Malik declined to comment on the defamation claim.

He added SA would also not issue a statement to the media in response to Soh's letter to the association, and the body would reply to the athlete through its lawyers.

The long-running public disagreement between Soh, 28, and SA started after the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Aug 1 rejected SA's nomination of Soh for the biennial Games.

 
 
 
 

A day later, SA said in a statement it accepted the SNOC's decision and that Soh had "on several occasions breached SA's Code of Conduct".

The national sports association (NSA) added it had attempted to counsel and reason with Soh "for his transgressions" as part of a "rehabilitation process".

This prompted Soh, via his lawyers from Foxwood, to serve the NSA a lawyer's letter on Aug 7 over the organisation's comments.

SA, via Chandra Mohan K. Nair of Tan Rajah & Cheah, replied to Soh's Aug 7 letter on Aug 13 urging both parties to "seriously consider mediating on this matter", and proposed a without prejudice meeting.

This was rejected by Soh a day later. In his reply, Soh said SA had not clarified their public comments on him, as requested in the Aug 7 letter, and had "temporarily suspended" engagements with the athlete.

Soh, in the latest Aug 19 letter, noted SA had on Aug 16 replied a second time and "confirmed that (he) did breach the Athlete's Code of Conduct but again failed to provide any justification or basis".

Soh is also in a dispute with SNOC.

In rejecting Soh's nomination on Aug 1, SNOC noted "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".

Soh then served the SNOC a lawyer's letter, dated Aug 7, requesting it provide details of its standards of behaviour for athletes and where Soh had fallen short.

The SNOC responded via its lawyers Rajah & Tann Singapore in an Aug 15 letter to Soh and stated "determinations of attitude, behaviour" and the ability to serve as an example to the youth are "always subjective in nature".

These subjective factors have been part of its selection criteria since 2003, and "no one, including your client and Singapore Athletics (SA), has ever taken issue with the inclusion of such subjective criteria", added the letter, which pointed out that Soh had chosen to put an "disingenuous spin" on it.

In response, Soh's lawyers said in a letter on Aug 18 it disagreed the SNOC "is entitled to take such subjective factors into consideration".

It added the SNOC "cannot rely on the Olympic Charter to justify its arbitrary decision to reject (Soh's) nomination" as the Charter "has not been implemented by way of legislation and has no legal effect in Singapore".