Soh Rui Yong saga: S'pore IOC member Ng Ser Miang says athletes who don't like incentive scheme rules can opt out

Soh Rui Yong raises the Singaporean flag after the marathon in Putrajaya, on Aug 19, 2017.
Soh Rui Yong raises the Singaporean flag after the marathon in Putrajaya, on Aug 19, 2017.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's most senior sports officials and former Singapore Sports Council (now SportSG) chairman Ng Ser Miang has weighed in on the controversy surrounding marathoner Soh Rui Yong.

Soh, who defended his marathon title at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, has chafed at  having to donate part of his award money to Singapore Athletics (SA).

As an individual SEA Games gold medallist, the 26-year-old will receive $10,000 under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), which provides a cash payout to athletes who win medals at the Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth and SEA Games.

The incentive scheme, devised by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in the 1990s, requires that athletes donate 20 per cent of their award money to their national sports association (NSA) for training and development. For the Commonwealth Games, the amount to be donated is 50 per cent. The Tote Board/Singapore Pools is the primary sponsor of the SNOC MAP awards and the donation is deducted before the award money is given to the athletes..

Soh, who has sent a protest letter against the deduction to the SNOC, has argued that Singapore Athletics has not given him any coaching help and does not deserve taking a share of his award money. He also pointed out that Singapore Athletics has been plagued by infighting and controversies over the past year. 

On Thursday (Sept 21), Ng, who is also an International Olympic Committee member, shared a Facebook post about Singaporean marathoner Ashley Liew winning the International Fair Play Committee's Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy last September.

 
 

Ng said that  he was reminded of Liew's sportsmanship after reading about athletes "going to the media fighting for self-interests without regard to the overall good for his sport... (and) forgets it is an honour and privilege and not a birth right to fly the flag of Singapore".

The 68-year-old Ng told The New Paper that he did not want to get into a debate about Soh. He said: "Everybody is entitled to his view. But the award is a privilege, not entitlement. If an athlete does not believe in it (or its rules), he can opt out of it."

He added: "A gold medallist is not always a champion. "Being a champion is about more than winning medals. It is about being a role model and showing exemplary conduct."

Soh told The Straits Times on Friday: "I'm happy to meet with Mr Ng to better explain the things he might not have a complete understanding of - the challenges athletes are currently facing with Singapore Athletics, what can be done to improve the system, and why I was happy to donate my 20 per cent in 2015 but not this year."