Soh happy to 'bring the truth to light'

National marathoner Ashley Liew (left) has also requested the court compel Soh Rui Yong to publicly retract his statements and make a public apology.
National marathoner Ashley Liew (left) has also requested the court compel Soh Rui Yong to publicly retract his statements and make a public apology.PHOTOS: ASHLEYLIEWCHIRO/INSTAGRAM, TIMOTHY DAVID

He blasts SNOC for failing to be neutral in his saga with Liew; glad matter is going to court

The nation's top marathoner Soh Rui Yong blasted the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in a Facebook post yesterday, accusing it of bias in his public dispute with fellow runner Ashley Liew.

In the post, the national record holder also maintained his version of events that took place during the 2015 SEA Games marathon.

Then, Liew had reportedly found himself with a 50-metre lead after 12 other runners missed a U-turn and went down the wrong route. But, instead of capitalising on his advantage, he reportedly slowed down to let his rivals catch up.

Soh, who won the race in Singapore while Liew finished eighth, alleges this is not true.

Last October, he disputed Liew's account of events at the race, for which the latter was given a special award for sportsmanship by the SNOC and the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy by the International Fair Play Committee (CIFP) in 2016.

In its press release announcing the news in 2016, the SNOC had noted that "with his act of sportsmanship, Ashley effectively reduced his own chances of obtaining a medal position, which was within grasp. The recorded personal best timings of the runners showed that Ashley had a reasonable shot at attaining a podium finish, especially since the race was on home ground".

Yesterday, Soh, 27, reiterated his contention to this in his post.

"Regardless of whether or not Ashley slowed down, it had no bearing on the final result as Ashley finished far (6min 52sec) behind the bronze medallist," he said.

"Claiming that he sacrificed his chance at a medal in the name of sportsmanship is disrespectful to the efforts of the bronze medallist that day, Hoang Nguyen Thanh of Vietnam."

Soh, who retained his SEA Games marathon title in 2017, added: "The (SNOC) should also be ashamed at themselves for failing (to) conduct a proper investigation of the truth, and choosing rather to only speak with witnesses from one side in order to back up what they want to believe.

"There are several people who saw that Ashley did not slow down, yet SNOC refused to talk to any of them to get their take on the situation."

He is believed to be referring to Filipino Rafael Poliquit, who was in the SEA Games marathon field but did not finish, as well as well-known local running coach Steven Quek, who used to train him, and his own coach Jordan Schilit. Poliquit died in April, aged 30, from a brain infection.

"The SNOC has failed to stay neutral and credible in the fact-finding process, and I have lost respect for the organisation that is supposed to represent the epitome of sporting values in Singapore," added Soh.

In April, the SNOC said that it had four eyewitnesses who had provided statutory declarations backing Liew but it has not named these persons publicly.

In response to queries, the SNOC said in a statement: "We regret to note the derogatory and baseless remarks made by (Soh), and fully reserve our legal rights against him.

"Given that the remarks are made in connection with a matter that is now pending before the State Courts, it would not be appropriate for the SNOC to provide our comments on the matter at this time."

The SNOC also said it would monitor the developments in the litigation between Soh and Liew.

The Facebook post is the latest in the spat between the duo. On Tuesday, Liew requested a court order to restrain Soh from making any further statements and to compel him to remove the statements that have already been published.

In a statement, Liew said: "I hold the values of honesty and integrity in high regard. Soh's actions on social media have caused Singaporeans to question my integrity and that crosses the line.

"Soh's false statements and aggravating comments have not only hurt my feelings but also disparaged my reputation."

EXASPERATED

The (SNOC) should also be ashamed at themselves for failing (to) conduct a proper investigation of the truth, and choosing rather to only speak with witnesses from one side in order to back up what they want to believe.

SOH RUI YONG, on what he believes is a biased investigation by the SNOC into his dispute with Ashley Liew.

MEASURED

We regret to note the derogatory and baseless remarks made by (Soh), and fully reserve our legal rights against him.

SNOC SPOKESMAN, on the comments made by Soh in a Facebook post yesterday.

Liew, 32, also wants the court to compel Soh to publicly retract his statements and make a public apology. A report in news portal Today last month also said he is seeking $120,000 in damages from Soh for defamation.

However, Soh said on Facebook yesterday that he is "happy" that the dispute is going to court, adding: "May the truth finally see the light of day."

This comes after Soh's refusal to meet the demands of a cease-and-desist letter issued by Liew's lawyer Mark Teng of That.Legal LLC on April 9.

The SNOC, through law firm Rajah & Tann, had on April 1 also served Soh a letter with similar demands to publicly retract his views, but he did not comply.

In his post, Soh said that he found it "disappointing that some people would rather spend all this time and energy defending their fairy tale rather than training to be a better athlete".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2019, with the headline 'Soh happy to 'bring the truth to light''. Print Edition | Subscribe