Wider culture of support exists in Singapore's sports scene for smoke-free awareness

National sports associations said they do not condone the idea of athletes lighting up, especially if they are in national colours.
National sports associations said they do not condone the idea of athletes lighting up, especially if they are in national colours.

In the lead-up to a tournament in 2015, a national hockey player was caught smoking at a training camp.

He was told to pack up and leave the camp, and was later dropped from the team for the tournament.

Singapore Hockey Federation president Mathavan Devadas said: "We have had a players' agreement since 2011, and the no-smoking clause has been there from day one.

"It affects our image - the national policy is to discourage people from smoking, and there is a very high intolerance for it for the general public - and it definitely affects your athletic performance."

National sports associations The Straits Times (ST) spoke to yesterday said they do not condone athletes who light up, especially if they are in national colours, although they have various ways of dealing with this issue. This comes after the Football Association of Singapore's decision to take a firm stand against smoking within the Young Lions.

Singapore Silat Federation chief executive officer and national coach Sheik Alau'ddin said he would "kick out" a smoker, but allow the athlete back after he stubs out permanently.

Reactions

DIFFICULT TASK

For seasoned smokers like us who are conditioned to play at this level while smoking, it will be much harder to quit without experiencing the side-effects that may affect my performances for weeks or even months.

A VETERAN PLAYER, who declined to be named.


OVERALL AWARENESS

To a large extent, (smoking) portrays a bad image. After all, being an athlete means you are fit and healthy and smoking does not associate well with being fit. However, it is very subjective that smoking will hurt your performance directly.

GARY WONG, national floorball captain.


MAKING A POINT

Kids want to try new things and we want to make a point and also prevent them from graduating to experimenting with drugs. From my experience, it's important to build a close rapport with them if you want them to listen to your counsel.

SHEIK ALAU'DDIN, Singapore Silat Federation chief executive officer.


A MATTER OF GUIDANCE

The athletes should know that it is their career, or even their rice bowl, and not do anything to jeopardise it. If they want to go to the next level, smoking is something they have to let go. But educating and guiding the young athletes, instead of sacking them, is a good way to start.

ENRICO MARICAN, national hockey captain.


GOOD MOVE

I think the (FAS') move is a good one, although it may shake things up. At least there are solutions offered, and it's no a do-or-die situation. I welcome this move.

VANESSA LEE, national netball captain.

"For the younger athletes, we work with the Singapore Sports School and their parents to conduct spot checks and search their schoolbags if we suspect them of smoking," he added. "If they are caught, they are barred from competition."

The Singapore Swimming Association and Singapore Table Tennis Association referred to their athletes' code of conduct and said they would deal with the errant athletes, via an internal disciplinary committee and counselling respectively.

Singapore Slingers general manager Michael Johnson revealed that there are clauses in their contracts that allow the team to take action.

He added: "I'm with our players a lot and if I see them smoke in public, I will take action, but I haven't had to do so in the 10 years I've been here. No one in our team smokes around the team. If they do so behind closed doors privately, it is very hard to police."

Three national skippers told ST that a soft approach might be more effective, with advising and counselling the first options.

National hockey captain Enrico Marican and national netball captain Vanessa Lee said they have not encountered team-mates who light up, but have no qualms about how to deal with the issue.

Lee said: "I would approach them and tell them to stub out if I do see anyone smoking. National athletes are role models to Singaporeans, and people do recognise you."

Enrico added: "I am their captain but also their friend, so I would advise them to stop if they want to become a better player, and find ways to help them. It's better than telling them to butt out, because they may just light up behind you."

National floorball captain Gary Wong concurred, and said he has tried to persuade a fellow player to give up the habit. He said: "It was just a casual conversation. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual's decision to quit."

  • Additional reporting by David Lee and Wang Meng Meng
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'Wider culture of support exists for smoke-free awareness'. Print Edition | Subscribe