Celebrity muay thai fight: Death raises questions about legal and health issues

Fatal celebrity bout did not come under the auspices of local amateur body, says its chief

Bodybuilder Pradip Subramanian died of cardiac arrest respiratory failure after his Asia Fighting Championship "celebrity fight" with YouTube personality Steven Lim at Marina Bay Sands on Saturday night. PHOTO: ASIA FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP

SINGAPORE - More questions were raised on Monday (Sept 25) over the death of bodybuilder Pradip Subramanian in a celebrity muay thai bout on Saturday, as it emerged that the local sports association did not sanction the fight.

In a statement to The Straits Times, Mervyn Tan, president of the Amateur Muaythai Association (Singapore) or Amas, said that the fight did not come under his organisation's purview.

"(We have) no authority and did not sanction the event. The event was sanctioned by the World Muaythai Council (WMC), which presides over professional fights worldwide," he stated.

"For us, Amas, (we) only handle amateur fights."

Tan went on to add that the celebrity fight was "not a real bout as it was not even programmed by WMC" and "a bout purely for entertainment and novelty".

The WMC did not reply to queries from ST by press time. Organisers of the event, the Asia Fighting Championship (AFC), declined to comment.

Police are investigating it as an unnatural death.

Pradip, who was the president of World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Federation (Singapore), had stepped into the ring against YouTube personality Steven Lim at Marina Bay Sands on Saturday after just one day's notice, being a late replacement for former Singapore Idol runner-up Sylvester Sim.

After losing the fight, he was helped out of the ring, before dying in hospital of cardiac arrest respiratory failure, according to a preliminary medical report.

Unfortunately, there may be little that local fighters can do in terms of legal redress, should they encounter a life-threatening situation during fights.

Pradip, along with Lim, is understood to have signed a declaration form acknowledging the risks involved before the celebrity fight.

Generally, disclaimers included in such forms are meant to cut off the possibility of civil claims or damages, should there be any injuries.

"Chances are, the form will be enforceable to waive his rights to claim for such injuries." said lawyer Terence Seah of Virtus Law.

"What might not be so clear-cut is how effective or bulletproof the form is."

Criminal lawyer Luke Lee added that circumstances could be unique in Pradip's case, with the indemnity form not covering criminal damages.

"This is a new area in Singapore law. It's the first case I've come across of someone dying in a sparring match," he said.

"It seems to me that (the police verdict) would be a sporting injury, but we won't know until the final autopsy report."

A lack of proper training and conditioning, more than the lack of protective headgear during the fight, could have precipitated Pradip's death.

"We do not know if Pradip suffered a cardiac arrest. We'll have to wait for the autopsy results. (But) for contact sports like rugby and martial arts, helmets do not change the incidence of concussion," said Lai Kah Weng, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena and medical director of the Singapore Rugby Union.

"It is much more important to be properly trained and conditioned. So the proper procedures like pre-participation medical screening and correct processes like recognition and removal are crucial in managing head injuries."

He added, after watching a video clip of the fight's aftermath, that "it does not seem there was a proper well-rehearsed medical response" to the situation.

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