Singapore sports fraternity takes united stand against sexual harassment

The joint statement was issued in the wake of several sexual harassment cases in the sporting fraternity, including that of Roger Yue Jr (pictured), who was jailed for 25 years on March 19, 2018.
The joint statement was issued in the wake of several sexual harassment cases in the sporting fraternity, including that of Roger Yue Jr (pictured), who was jailed for 25 years on March 19, 2018.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A safe environment, free of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour - for all members of the local sports fraternity.

That was the united stand the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), national sports agency Sport Singapore and 57 national sports associations (NSAs) took in a joint statement issued yesterday.

Representing their respective NSAs, Milan Kwee (taekwondo), Juliana Seow (fencing) and Abdul Halim Kader (sepak takraw) jointly said: "Harassment of any nature, especially sexual misconduct, in sport is never acceptable.

"As the national sport bodies in Singapore, we must unite and put in our best effort to stamp out such undesirable behaviours. We are committed to prevent and protect our people through education and appropriate action against delinquents.

We promise to keep sport clean and safe for everyone."

The pledge to keep Singapore sports free of sexual harassment has been greeted positively.

Veteran athletics coach Margaret Oh applauds the move but added that there are grey areas.

She explained: "The best thing is to play it safe and not touch the athletes. If need be, coaches should only touch non-sensitive areas like ankles and shins and leave areas like hamstrings and groin alone.

"And if an athlete needs a rub, coaches can do it in an open area like the grandstand where there will be people. But it can be hard to remember exactly what happened years later."

In recent months, the topic of sexual harassment has come under the spotlight as several cases made headlines locally and internationally.

Last month, a 28-year-old football coach, Bernard Tan Meng Soon, was given 26 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane for sexually assaulting seven boys aged between eight and 11.

A rope-skipping coach, 60-year-old Roger Yue Jr, was jailed for 25 years for sexual offences against a female student, who was between 13 and 14 years old at the time.

In January, former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors.

A month later, he was sentenced to an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to an additional three counts of sexual assault.

SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan reiterated the local fraternity's zero tolerance towards such conduct, saying: "Sexual misconduct goes completely against the fundamental values of sport and the Olympic creed. We are in this together with the sporting fraternity to promote the values of sport and weed out the delinquents."

SportSG has already taken the lead in ramping up efforts to curb misconduct among coaches.

Its academy for coaches, CoachSG, has updated its Values and Principles in Sport course, which now includes discussions of real incidents between coaches and their charges.

Later this month, representatives from SportSG will be attending a Safe Sport International Conference in Spain to learn about best practices, focusing on coach-athlete relationships.

Following that, SportSG will hold focus group discussions with the various NSAs on how to prevent and eradicate any form of sexual harassment.

Singapore Athletics, with input from the police, is working on an advisory to be issued later this year to remind coaches and athletes of the boundaries in their relationships.

Lim Teck Yin, CEO of SportSG, said: "In an environment based largely on trust, all stakeholders play a part in ensuring that this trust is not violated.

"Together with our NSAs and SNOC, we are sending a strong message that any form of sexual harassment should not be tolerated."