Two-time SEA GAmes gold medallist, Soh Rui Yong (Image from RunSohFast.com)

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong commences legal battle against SNOC and Singapore Athletics over recent conflicts

In the most recent development of the conflict between Singaporean long distance runner Soh Rui Yong and national sports authorities, it appears Mr Soh has sent letters to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore Athletics (SA).

In a blog post on his website RunSohFast and on Facebook yesterday (7 August), Mr Soh explained that while he would not be appealing SNOC’s decision to exclude him from the 2019 SEA Games, a ‘legal battle’ has begun to “protect the rights of current and future athletes of Singapore, and to push Singapore sports governing bodies to more accountability and transparency.”

In a statement, the SNOC  has announced last week that its selection committee has decided to reject the SA’s nomination of Mr Soh’s participation in the 2019 SEA Games after careful deliberation.

The national Olympic body said, “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, considering that they are held up and seen as representatives of the country and as examples to our sporting youth.

“As such, the SNOC has decided to reject SA’s nomination for his national representation at the 2019 SEA Games.”

In his most recent Facebook post, Mr Soh said “Over the last few days, Singapore Athletics (SA) made several allegations against me. In particular, SA alleged that I had committed a series of purported “transgressions” without giving any explanation and/or details as to the same.”

“The SNOC, meanwhile, has applied highly subjective, inconsistent and/or arbitrary standards in the selection process for the 2019 SEA Games and has disregarded the fundamental principles of merit-based selection which an organisation of its stature would be expected to adhere to strictly.”

Mr Soh said that a team of lawyers from Foxwood LLC has addressed legal letters to SA Executive Director Malik Aljunied and SNOC Secretary General Chris Chan.

He also invited both men to “step forth and resolve this in a mutually respectful manner” before a deadline of 5pm on 13 August.

An SNOC spokesman apparently told The New Paper (TNP) that the Council has referred the legal letter to their own solicitors for a response. TNP quoted the spokesman as saying, “Since Mr Soh Rui Yong has seen it fit to issue a lawyer’s letter to the SNOC, it is only appropriate for the SNOC to instruct our lawyers to respond to Mr Soh’s lawyers instead of issuing multiple responses through separate communication channels.”

Also quote was Mr Aljunied as saying, “The Singapore Athletics management committee is reviewing the matter and taking legal advice from our lawyer.”

Comments on Mr Soh’s Facebook post have been largely supportive, with many commending the athlete for not backing down and for taking a stand to protect the future of sports in Singapore for the sake of all athletes in the country.

  

One commenter also recounted how an Olympian canoiest has to fund her own training overseas even though she was representing the country. It was pointed out that athletes who bring home medals from more prestigious events like the Olympics and stay in line are hailed while those who toe the line – like Mr Soh – are forced to face the full weight and authority of the government.

However, not all responses were favourable. A few people noted that taking the legal route is ‘ugly’ and will end ‘even more ugly regardless who wins’ and that it is not always the best route just because others are doing it.