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Marathoner Ashley Liew sends legal letter to Soh Rui Yong over allegations on act of sportsmanship

Marathoner Ashley Liew sends legal letter to Soh Rui Yong over allegations on act of sportsmanship

A composite image showing Soh Rui Yong (left) and Ashley Liew. (Photos: Facebook / Soh Rui Yong, SNOC)

SINGAPORE: Top Singapore marathoner Soh Rui Yong has been sent a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyer of fellow national teammate Ashley Liew, over Soh's account of what happened during the men's marathon at the 2015 SEA Games.

Among other things, the letter requests that Soh retract his statements and make a public apology for his allegations about Liew, said Liew's management team ONEathlete Team in a statement on Tuesday (Apr 9).

Liew was hailed for act of sportsmanship during the SEA Games marathon, when he slowed down during the race to allow runners who had taken the wrong route to catch up with him.

He was subsequently awarded the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy by the International Fair Play Committee in 2016, and earned special recognition from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), which nominated him for the international accolade.

However last October, Soh, who had also competed in the marathon and won gold, posted a comment on the International Fair Play Committee's Facebook page alleging that Liew's account was "untrue". He also repeated this on his blog and elaborated on it in a Facebook post.

READ: 'I stand for the truth': Marathoner Soh Rui Yong on disputing Ashley Liew’s act of sportsmanship at 2015 SEA Games

SOH'S ALLEGATIONS FALSE, SAYS SNOC AFTER INVESTIGATIONS

In a statement on Tuesday, SNOC said that Soh's allegations had "in effect" implied that its nomination of Liew for the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy was flawed. 

"As a public institution tasked with approving the selection of athletes to represent Singapore at major Games, and being the party responsible for the submission of Mr Liew’s candidacy for the Fair Play Trophy, SNOC had to ensure that Mr Soh’s allegations were fully investigated, and that the truth be determined," said the council.

It worked with lawyers to locate additional eyewitnesses to the event and interviewed them about whether they had seen Liew slowing down during the race. 

Four eyewitnesses gave sworn statements, each saying that they saw Liew slow down, said SNOC.

"Each of them positively affirmed that they saw Mr Liew slowing down to allow some of the runners who had fallen behind him due to taking the wrong route, to catch up," said SNOC. "One of these eyewitnesses was himself a participant in that same race."

SNOC then wrote to Soh on Apr 1 to offer him the chance to view these statutory declarations and publicly retract his allegations. He was given until 5pm on Monday to respond.

Three minutes past the deadline, Soh - represented by Eugene Thuraisingam LLP - sent a fax reply to SNOC's lawyer, essentially informing the council that he would not retract or withdraw his allegations, said SNOC.

He also did not take up their offer to view the statutory declarations, it said, adding that it had done "all that is necessary" to bring the truth to light, and would leave it to Liew to take this up further with Soh.

"Mr Soh’s continued refusal to acknowledge that he was wrong in his allegations about Mr Liew, and his rejection of the opportunity to retract and withdraw his false allegations, reflects poorly on him as an individual and as an athlete who is supposed to serve as an example to the sporting youth of his country," said SNOC.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Soh said he would now "battle Ashley Liew himself" for the truth of the marathon.

"Singapore National Olympic Council has dropped legal action!" said the athlete. "Thank you Eugene Thuraisingam/ Eugene Thuraisingam LLP for your help, I will now battle Ashley Liew himself for the truth of the 2015 SEA Games Marathon should he wish to continue escalating the matter."

Source: CNA/nc(gs)

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