Athletics: Bitter disputes top Tang's to-solve list

Singapore Athletics chief Tang Weng Fei (left) speaking to marathoner Soh Rui Yong before Thursday's annual general meeting and election. Tang has to decide on the fate of technical director Volker Herrmann, who has had formal complaints lodged again
Singapore Athletics chief Tang Weng Fei (left) speaking to marathoner Soh Rui Yong before Thursday's annual general meeting and election. Tang has to decide on the fate of technical director Volker Herrmann, who has had formal complaints lodged against him by three athletes, including Soh.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

New athletics chief expected to decide on leaked text messages saga and others soon

Singapore Athletics (SA) chief Tang Weng Fei knows his in-tray is full, and he has little time to rest.

A day after he and his team of nine were elected to lead the national track and field association for the next two years, the 64-year-old oil trader set about taking the first steps towards fixing the troubled association's problems.

He spent Friday afternoon "re-introducing" himself to members of his secretariat, and then various staff at national sports agency Sport Singapore, the Singapore National Olympic Council and Singapore Sports Institute. He had led the association from 2004 to 2006 and also 2010 to 2016.

"I learnt about some new initiatives, which were explained to me briefly," he told The Sunday Times. "I need to understand more the collaboration between the various agencies. But it was a good visit."

Tang, however, knows he has bigger issues to resolve.

The most prominent is last June's "WhatsApp Saga", when screenshots of a text-message conversation appeared to show former SA vice-president Govindasamy Balasekaran instructing staff to collect evidence so that disciplinary action could be taken against coaches Margaret Oh and David Yeo.

A three-member independent disciplinary committee was formed in March to look into the matter, and Tang revealed yesterday that the panel's investigation is complete.

"We are just waiting for the panel to draft the report and then we will take it from there," he said.

There is also the issue of formal complaints filed against SA technical director Volker Herrmann by Oh and national athletes from three disciplines - Dipna Lim-Prasad (sprints/hurdles), Rachel Yang (pole vault) and Soh Rui Yong (marathon).

Tang is awaiting the panel's findings before deciding on the next course of action as Herrmann, whose contract ends in April, was part of the leaked conversation.

SA general manager Yip Ren Kai said: "They (the unresolved issues) are definitely at the top of the agenda for the committee. We want to have a good start, and resolve them as soon as possible.

"Ultimately, though, the (management committee) should be given a little time to settle into their positions."

Under the SA's revised constitution - which was reviewed and amended before Thursday's annual general meeting - the size of the management committee (MC) has been reduced from 26 to 11, with nine elected members.

The remaining two positions - general manager and athletes' commission representative - are decided separately.

The nine elected members will choose among themselves the president, three vice-presidents (training and selection, competitions, finance and partnerships), honorary secretary, honorary treasurer and three MC members.

Tang said these will likely be made official on Tuesday when an MC meeting will be held.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 14, 2018, with the headline 'Bitter disputes top Tang's to-solve list'. Print Edition | Subscribe