Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh has called for the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth to mediate in what he described as a dispute between the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Soh Rui Yong.
Speaking in Parliament on Jul. 6, Singh said that there was a widespread belief that the latest non-selection of Soh for the upcoming Asian Games is a carryover of the original spat between the long-distance runner and SNOC.
“One cannot help but feel that things have turned personal with SNOC taking a far stronger stand against Rui Yong compared to other athletes who have committed transgressions, as if to teach him a lesson for his outspokenness,” he added.
“I hope this matter can be brought to an amicable resolution with better engagement with a mediator from the Ministry,” he said.
Singh was speaking at a motion filed by Members of Parliament (MP) Jamus Lim and Faisal Manap from the Workers’ Party (WP), which called for the government to evaluate areas of improvement within Singapore’s sporting ecosystem, and commit to realising achievable sporting goals.
Singh: SNOC has a track record of forgiving athletes that have fallen short
Singh, who is also Secretary-General of the WP, highlighted that the SNOC has a track record of forgiving athletes who have fallen short of being examples for sporting youth and allowing them to compete for Singapore.
Here, Singh brought up the case of a silat exponent who was allowed to represent S’pore at the 32nd SEA Games despite a previous drink driving conviction in 2022
Singh also referred to a swimmer who won a silver at the same SEA Games and had previously been disciplined for consuming controlled drugs.
This swimmer also had his Sports Excellence Scholarship suspended for a month, Singh noted.
Both of these athletes had been involved in criminal offences unlike Soh, Singh highlighted.
“So why is SNOC’s attitude towards Rui Yong different?” he asked.
Mark Chay: Special appeals committee was convened in the case of Soh
In response, Nominated MP Mark Chay told Singh that with regard to the silat exponent, given that the incident happened in Nov. 27, 2022, and the SEA Games happened in May 2023, the issue fell outside the code of conduct and the ethics agreement.
As for the case of the swimmer, there was no criminal act or proceeding as he admitted to the consumption of marijuana but there was no presence of the drug, Chay highlighted.
On the case Soh, a special appeals committee had been convened prior to the 32nd SEA Games where he “seemed very sorry” for what he had done.
Chay added that Soh had made a commitment to not make disparaging comments, abide by this code of conduct and was sorry.
Chay then pointed out that following his participation in the SEA games, Soh did a podcast where he made disparaging comments about both his teammate and SNOC, hence the reason why he was not selected for the Asian Games.
In addition, while Soh will not be able to participate in major games, he can still take part at Singapore Athletics-sanctioned meets, according to Chay.
Singapore Athletics believes that Soh still abides by the code of conduct, and he is still nominated for such games, Chay added.
Hence, while Soh still can break national records, he cannot do so at major games given that he took advantage of the situation where leniency was given, Chay explained.
Singh: Appealing as an MP as Soh is his resident
Singh subsequently replied to Chay by reiterating that it is important for athletes to abide by discipline standards.
Singh also said:
“Soh Rui Yong is my resident, so I’m appealing also as his Member of Parliament, and if he can be allowed, if SNOC can take another look at him. I’m not out of order, I believe to raise this matter.”
Singh also reiterated his hope for senior members of the sporting establishment to come in and try to “lower temperatures” given that the dispute, in the eyes of the public, goes beyond an issue of transgressions.
When Singh asked Chay if he would join him in advocating for more dispute resolution mechanisms and supporting the rehabilitation of Soh, Chay replied that while he did not speak on behalf of the SNOC, the door is “not closed” if Soh is “truly sorry” and wants to move forward.
Top screenshots via CNA