Soh willing to meet Singapore Athletics to resolve dispute

Soh Rui Yong's dispute with the Singapore National Olympic Council and Singapore Athletics began when he was not nominated for the upcoming SEA Games.
Soh Rui Yong's dispute with the Singapore National Olympic Council and Singapore Athletics began when he was not nominated for the upcoming SEA Games.

Soh Rui Yong said yesterday he is willing to meet governing body Singapore Athletics (SA) to try and settle their dispute, which stems from the marathoner not being selected for the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines.

The two-time SEA Games champion has requested, however, that SA executive director Malik Aljunied not be present during the meeting.

Soh, represented by Clarence Lun of Foxwood, has separately through his lawyers issued a claim of defamation against Malik. Both legal letters were dated Aug 19.

When contacted, Malik declined to comment on the defamation claim. He added that SA would also not issue a statement to the media in response to Soh's letter to the association, and the body would reply to the athlete through its lawyers.

The public disagreement between Soh, 28, and SA started after the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Aug 1 rejected SA's nomination of Soh for the biennial Games.

A day later, SA said that it had accepted the SNOC's decision and that Soh had "on several occasions breached SA's Code of Conduct". The national sports association (NSA) - which publicised its code of conduct on its website under its announcements section yesterday - added that it had attempted to counsel and reason with Soh.

This prompted the national record holder, via his lawyers, to serve the NSA a lawyer's letter over the organisation's comments.

SA, via Chandra Mohan K. Nair of Tan Rajah & Cheah, replied to that letter urging both parties to "seriously consider mediating on this matter", and proposed a meeting, which Soh rejected.

In his reply, Soh said SA had not clarified its public comments on him, as requested in his original letter, and had "temporarily suspended" engagements with the athlete.

Soh is also in a dispute with the SNOC. 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 then served the SNOC a lawyer's letter requesting it provide details of its standards of behaviour for athletes and indicate where Soh had fallen short.

The SNOC responded via its lawyers Rajah & Tann Singapore in a letter to Soh and stated "determinations of attitude, behaviour" and the ability to serve as an example to the youth are "always subjective in nature".

These subjective factors have been part of its selection criteria since 2003, and "no one, including your client and Singapore Athletics (SA), has ever taken issue with the inclusion of such subjective criteria", added the letter, which pointed out that Soh had chosen to put a "disingenuous spin" on it.

In response, Soh's lawyers said in a letter on Sunday they disagreed that the SNOC "is entitled to take such subjective factors into consideration". They added the SNOC "cannot rely on the Olympic Charter to justify its arbitrary decision to reject (Soh's) nomination" as the charter "has not been implemented by way of legislation and has no legal effect in Singapore".

•Additional reporting by Sazali Abdul Aziz

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2019, with the headline 'Soh willing to meet Singapore Athletics to resolve dispute'. Print Edition | Subscribe