Athletics: Soh Rui Yong served lawyer's letter by fellow national marathoner Ashley Liew; SNOC drops legal action

SINGAPORE – Two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong was served a lawyer’s letter on Tuesday (April 9) by fellow national athlete Ashley Liew requesting the former retract his statements on the 2015 SEA Games marathon and apologise publicly.

This comes after the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) had on April 1, through law firm Rajah & Tann, served Soh a lawyer’s letter with similar requests. It had set a deadline of April 8 for this, which Soh did not comply with.

The SNOC on Tuesday said it will not be taking further legal action against Soh and added in a statement on its website that it has “done all that is necessary to bring the truth of what happened during the race to light. SNOC will leave it to Mr Liew to take up the matter further with Mr Soh to vindicate Mr Liew’s reputation.”

Last October, Soh disputed Liew’s account of events at the 2015 race in Singapore, for which the latter was given a special award for sportsmanship by the SNOC and the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy by the International Fair Play Committee (CIFP) in 2016.

During the segment of the marathon at East Coast Park, Liew had reportedly found himself with a 50m lead after 12 other runners missed a U-turn and took the wrong route. But, instead of capitalising, he slowed down to give his rivals time to catch up.

Liew eventually finished eighth in the event which Soh won.

Soh alleged on social media that Liew’s story was “untrue” after the CIFP had put up a Facebook post last year hailing Liew as a role model for fair play.

In his first public comments since Soh’s allegations, Liew, a chiropractor, said in a statement on Tuesday: “From a personal standpoint, I have not responded publicly to something like this because it is not my nature to fan any controversy. To me, staying silent on the matter was an exercise in de-escalation, not an admission of guilt.

“However, with the insinuations continuing, I cannot remain silent anymore. I believe it is time to speak up and clear the air.”

On suggestions that he provide tracking data, his management company ONEathlete noted this was not possible as Liew was using a Timex analog non-GPS watch during the 2015 race.

The SNOC letter had stated Soh’s allegations “casts aspersions on the merits and integrity of SNOC’s submission of Mr Liew’s candidacy to the Fair Play Committee”.

It also noted the SNOC, through Rajah & Tann, has “interviewed and spoken with various individuals who had personally witnessed the event that day”, and that at least four individuals have since stepped forward to the SNOC to support Liew’s account.

Liew, 32, has engaged Mark Teng of That.Legal LLC. Business development executive Soh, 27, is represented by Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

Soh said besides an apology, Liew was requesting he pay for his legal fees.

Soh told The Straits Times he will “entertain neither request” and added: “I am open to mediation and to find common ground if he wants to talk about this.

“(My plans going forward are) to find common settlement for all parties so we can leave this trivial matter behind and get ready for the 2019 SEA Games and other more important things.”

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