Soh Rui Yong rejects Singapore Athletics' mediation offer

Soh Rui Yong said that Singapore Athletics had not clarified their public comments on him, as requested in the Aug 7 letter, and had "temporarily suspended" engagements with the athlete.
Soh Rui Yong said that Singapore Athletics had not clarified their public comments on him, as requested in the Aug 7 letter, and had "temporarily suspended" engagements with the athlete.PHOTO: ST FILE

Marathon runner wants body to first explain its comments about his SEA Games exclusion

Two-time defending SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong, via his lawyer, has rejected Singapore Athletics' (SA) offer of a meeting to settle their dispute that stems from his non-selection for the upcoming edition.

He had served the association, which governs local track and field, a lawyer's letter on Aug 7 over the organisation's comments after the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Aug 1 rejected SA's nomination of Soh for the biennial Games in the Philippines from Nov 30 to Dec 11.

On Aug 2, SA said in a statement that it accepted the SNOC's decision and that Soh had "on several occasions breached SA's code of conduct". It added that it had attempted to counsel and reason with the athlete "for his transgressions" as part of a "rehabilitation process".

On Tuesday, the association, via lawyer Chandra Mohan K. Nair of Tan Rajah & Cheah, replied to Soh's Aug 7 letter, urging both parties to "seriously consider mediating on this matter", and proposed a without-prejudice meeting.

"Our clients are ready and willing to defend their position in this matter... Our clients' duty and approach... is to settle any dispute that may arise between an athlete and Singapore Athletic Association through mediation as a first resort," stated SA's letter.

However, Soh, represented by Clarence Lun of Foxwood LLC, rejected the offer on Wednesday, saying that SA had not clarified its public comments about him, as requested in the Aug 7 letter, and had "temporarily suspended" engagements with the athlete.

Soh's letter on Wednesday added: "Until such time when our client is able to review your client's substantive response then will our client be able to consider if a meeting between parties, when set up, will be purposeful and fruitful."

Asked why he needed SA's clarification of its Aug 2 comments before considering mediation, the 27-year-old Soh told The Straits Times: "If you accuse someone of something publicly, you either substantiate it with basis or apologise if you have no basis.

"You don't... hide behind closed doors and settle quietly after the damage is done. Mediation will come only after (SA executive director Syed Abdul) Malik (Aljunied) and SA explain themselves."

SA president Tang Weng Fei said in a statement yesterday: "SA has received and read the second legal letter from Rui Yong's lawyers, dated 14 Aug 2019, to SA.

"The matter is being dealt with by our solicitors although SA remains open to a constructive engagement."

In rejecting Soh's nomination on Aug 1, the SNOC 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".

Soh has also served the SNOC a lawyer's letter, dated Aug 7, requesting that the organisation provide details of its standards of behaviour for athletes, and where he had fallen short.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2019, with the headline 'Soh rejects SA's mediation offer'. Print Edition | Subscribe