Left - Ashley Liew, Right - Soh Rui Yong

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong demands a public apology and S$1 million from Ashley Liew’s management over alleged defamatory remarks

The dispute between two-time marathon champion Soh Rui Yong and his former teammate Ashley Liew continues, as Mr Soh’s lawyer has sent a letter of demand to One Management and its co-founder Jed Senthil K Jivaraju on Tuesday (15 October) over alleged defamatory remarks made by them.

One Management, which is co-founded by Mr Jed and former SEA Games marathon champion Mok Ying Ren, is the parent company of RunOne and ONEathlete, which manages Mr Liew.

In the letter, Foxwood LLC’s Clarence Lun, who is representing Mr Soh, said that the three statement published on the website of Mr Liew’s management “are defamatory”, which have resulted to “significant loss, inconvenience and distress” to Mr Soh.

“In particular, the Defamatory Statements have caused irreparable damage and/or injury to our client’s image and reputation which he has worked hard to maintain over the course of his professional career as an athlete,” the letter stated.

The three statement that Mr Soh’s lawyer was referring to were published on 21 October last year, and 2 and 9 April 2019 on the RunOne website.

The alleged defamatory statements

In October 2018, the public spat between Mr Soh and Mr Liew started regarding a contested act of sportsmanship by the latter during the SEA Games men’s marathon final in 2015.

Mr Soh had taken matter to Facebook where he disagreed with Mr Liew’s account of what happened during the final. Mr Liew said that he had slowed down in order to allow other runners in the event to catch up after they missed a U-turn and took the wrong path.

Mr Liew’s move led him to winning the Pierre de Coubertin World Play Trophy – a global prize for good sportsmanship – as well as a sportsmanship award from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

Following Mr Soh’s remarks, RunOne released a statement last October in response to his claims. The company said that they stood by its athlete and the decision by the SNOC and the International Committee for Fair Play to “nominate and confer” the award to Mr Liew. The company also said that Mr Soh “is entitled to his opinions”.

Later on 2 and 9 April this year, RunOne published additional two more statements responding to allegation highlighted by Mr Soh. The company noted that it had initially decided not to answer to Mr Soh’s “incessant aspersions in kind because we do not stand for, nor identify with, such regrettable behaviour from a fellow athlete”.

However, it later stated that “Soh’s allegations had unfairly cast doubt over ONEathlete, Ashley’s Liew’s repute as an individual, working professional and national athelete”.

Subsequently, in the 9 April media statement, RunOne gave out a summary of events and refuted claims made by Mr Soh against Mr Liew regarding the alleged act of sportsmanship and its developments.

As such, in the Tuesday’s legal letter, Mr Soh is demanding that One Management sign a written undertaking not to publish any more statements that may be defamatory to him as well as a public apology to be published in The Straits Times on a wording to be agreed by Mr Soh.

Additionally, the two time marathon champion also wants a total compensation of S$1 million – S$500,000 each from One Management and Mr Jed – to be paid, along with other concessions. Failure to do so will result to libel proceedings against both parties by Mr Soh.

In a Facebook post today (17 October), Mr Soh said that Mr Jed “has taken down all media statements and Facebook posts alleged to be defamatory” mentioned in the Letter of Demand.

“To avoid unnecessary steps to be taken, I hope that Jed and ONE Management SG will issue a public apology, work together on damages to be assessed and close this episode in life,” he wrote.

Additional legal battles

Apart from this latest legal spat, Mr Soh is also involved in other legal proceedings with Mr Liew, Singapore Athletics (SA) and SA executive director Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied.

On 18 June this year, Mr Liew sued Mr Soh for defamation and requested him to remove comments which implied that Mr Liew is a liar and is not entitled to receive the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy. In the beginning of this month, Mr Soh said that he will be issuing a counterclaim against Mr Liew’s case.

Besides Mr Liew, Mr Soh also filed a defamation writ against SA executive director Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied because he was unhappy with Mr Malik for the allegedly defamatory comments that Mr Malik posted on his Facebook page on 17 August.

Additionally, Mr Soh’s lawyers also sent a defamation writ and statement of claim to the SA in September this year after they rejected Mr Soh’s participation in the 2019 SEA Games.