Statement by SNOC on allegations made by Soh Rui Yong concerning SNOC’s nomination of Ashley Liew for the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy
9 April 2019
STATEMENT BY SNOC ON ALLEGATIONS MADE BY SOH RUI YONG CONCERNING SNOC’S NOMINATION OF ASHLEY LIEW FOR THE PIERRE DE COUBERTIN WORLD FAIR PLAY TROPHY
In November 2015, SNOC had nominated one of Singapore’s representatives in the SEA Games 2015 marathon event, Mr Ashley Liew, for the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy for his act of sportsmanship in slowing down during the race to allow runners who had taken the wrong route (and therefore lost their lead to Mr Liew) to catch up with him. SNOC’s nomination was based on the verified accounts of various witnesses. Mr Liew’s act of sportsmanship was also widely reported in the press and on television (including on The 5 Show, which featured an interview with Mr Liew in which he described what had happened during the race – https://video.toggle.sg/en/series/the-5-show/ep111/334039), and no one had at the time, sought to cast any doubt on these accounts. In September 2016, the International Fair Play Committee decided to award Mr Liew with the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy in the “Act of Fair Play” category.
On 21 October 2018, more than 3 ½ years after the said marathon event, and more than 2 years after Mr Liew received the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy, Mr Soh Rui Yong, who had also participated in the marathon race in the SEA Games 2015 (and who had won the gold medal for the event) posted on the International Fair Play Committee’s Facebook page serious allegations that Mr Liew had lied about having slowed down during the race. Mr Soh then repeated these allegations in his blog post at www.runsohfast.com. In a further post on his Facebook page on 26 October 2018, Mr Soh alleged that Mr Liew had, in claiming that he had slowed down during the race, engaged in “conjuring, exaggerating and circulating a fictional tale of sportsmanship”.
Mr Soh’s allegations in effect implied that SNOC’s nomination of Mr Liew was flawed, without justification, made arbitrarily, and without the exercise of proper judgment. 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. To do this, SNOC worked with its lawyers to locate additional eye witnesses to the event, and thereafter, to interview them to ascertain whether any of them had personally seen Mr Liew slowing down during the race, in particular, when the leading pack of runners had taken the wrong turn. Given the seriousness of Mr Soh’s allegations and the potential legal repercussions arising from the publication of these allegations, it became necessary to have the eye witnesses provide their accounts in the form of sworn statements. Four eye witnesses provided SNOC with their statutory declarations. 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. One of these eye witnesses was himself a participant in that same race. We highly commend these individuals for their civic mindedness and willingness to come forward with their statutory declarations.
As it was clear from the respective accounts given in the four statutory declarations that Mr Soh’s allegations about Mr Liew were false, SNOC (through our lawyers) then wrote to Mr Soh on 1 April 2019 to offer him the opportunity to view these statutory declarations, and to publicly retract and withdraw his allegations about Mr Liew. Mr Soh was given up until 5.00pm on 8 April 2019 to respond to SNOC’s lawyers’ letter. At 5.03pm yesterday, the firm of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP representing Mr Soh sent a fax reply to SNOC’s lawyer from Rajah & Tann. Essentially, Mr Soh informed SNOC that he will not retract or withdraw his allegations about Mr Liew. Mr Soh did not take up SNOC’s offer to view the statutory declarations.
SNOC 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.
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.