Soh blasts SA yet again

Two-time SEA Games gold medallist Soh Rui Yong had been barred from defending his marathon title in the Philippines, and now blocked from Singapore Athletics' social media platforms.
Two-time SEA Games gold medallist Soh Rui Yong had been barred from defending his marathon title in the Philippines, and now blocked from Singapore Athletics' social media platforms.ST FILE PHOTO

'Toxic' marathoner given online stonewall treatment by local athletics governing body

The fallout from marathoner Soh Rui Yong's non-selection for the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games in the Philippines has continued with Singapore Athletics (SA) removing him from a WhatsApp chat group for athletes and blocking him from its social media platforms.

In a Facebook post yesterday, the two-time SEA Games marathon champion shared two WhatsApp screenshots that showed his removal from a chat group called "SAA" - the former name of SA - and a separate message from an SA staff explaining that he had "been instructed to block and remove (Soh) from our social media platforms".

Soh, who won the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games marathon gold, sarcastically said in his post that he wanted to congratulate SA executive director Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied and the SA management team for their move.

When contacted, Malik told The Straits Times that he made the decision to block and remove Soh from SA's social media platforms "temporarily" and instructed the SA staff to do so, as the athlete was "being very negative and toxic".

Malik added he has recommended to the SA management committee (MC) that a three-member independent disciplinary committee be formed to look into alleged breaches by Soh against the association's athlete code of conduct.

However, the MC has not taken a decision yet.

"The main concern for me now is taking care of the SEA Games team," said Malik.

"I am serving many roles because we don't have a technical director or high-performance manager... and our priority is to use sport as a force for good."

SPORT FOR GOOD

The main concern for me now is taking care of the SEA Games team. I am serving many roles because we don't have a technical director or high-performance manager... and our priority is to use sport as a force for good.

SYED ABDUL MALIK ALJUNIED, Singapore Athletics executive director, confirming he made the decision to "temporarily" purge Soh from SA's social media platforms.

Soh's latest riposte comes on the back of his withering criticism of SA's statement issued on Friday that it would not lodge an appeal for his inclusion in the SEA Games.

He called it a "piece of fluff".

Then, the SA had stated that Soh had "on several occasions" breached SA's athlete code of conduct and that the association had attempted to counsel and reason with the athlete.

A day earlier, Soh's nomination for the 2019 SEA Games - put forth by SA - had been rejected by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), which noted that "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".

The rejection sparked a debate within the sporting fraternity about whether Soh's outspoken nature - he had publicly clashed with SNOC over various issues in the past two years - justified his omission.

Soh is not only the Games' defending champion, but also the national record holder. In March, he clocked 2hr 23min 42sec at the Seoul Marathon to rewrite the national mark, which had stood since 1995, making him the country's pre-eminent marathoner.

The time comfortably cleared the SEA Games' qualifying benchmark of the third-place result at the previous edition (2:31:52). It is believed to be the second-best time by a South-east Asian marathoner this year.

Singapore will be represented at the SEA Games by Caleb Hia, who clocked 2:38:26 at the London Marathon in April and will be making his Games debut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2019, with the headline 'Soh blasts SA yet again'. Print Edition | Subscribe