Soh Rui Yong and Singapore Athletics mend fences over SEA Games non-selection saga, runner withdraws lawsuit

Soh Rui Yong has agreed to "withdraw and discontinue" his lawsuit.
Soh Rui Yong has agreed to "withdraw and discontinue" his lawsuit.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - One of the most high-profile spats in local sport has ended in a ceasefire, with marathoner Soh Rui Yong discontinuing his lawsuit against Singapore Athletics (SA).

In a statement posted on SA's website on Friday (Oct 16), the national track and field body said that two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh, 29, has agreed to "withdraw and discontinue" his lawsuit that came about in the aftermath of his non-selection for the 2019 SEA Games.

Just hours later, SA executive director Malik Aljunied, who is also involved in a legal dispute with Soh, announced his departure from the association. He informed local media that he would be returning to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), his previous employer.

The truce with Soh marks a major boost for the new SA management team, led by Lien Choong Luen, who were elected into power by affiliates at the national sports association's annual general meeting barely a month earlier, on Sept 25.

Among their campaign promises, Lien and his team had pledged to prioritise the resolution of legal issues SA had become embroiled in over the last two years, and arguably the most high profile of these was the one involving Soh, the nation's No. 1 marathoner.

In its statement, SA said: "Through extensive engagement with Mr Soh by the new leadership in the two weeks since assuming office, we are pleased to announce that the Association and Mr Soh have agreed to put an end to all their disagreements, and double down on efforts to work together for the betterment of the athletics community, the sport, and the nation's regional and international aspirations."

SA said it "withdraws unconditionally" the portions of its media statement dated Aug 3, 2019 stating that Mr Soh had "on several occasions breached (SA's) Athletic Code of Conduct" and "or his transgressions, (SA) had attempted to counsel and reason with him, as part of a holistic rehabilitation process".

The national track and field body also extended its "sincere apology" to Soh for any inconvenience and distress that the statement caused him, and will stand down disciplinary proceedings initiated on Sept 25 by the outgoing SA management.

On his part, Soh agreed to withdraw and discontinue his lawsuit against SA, and acknowledged his responsibility that as one of the country's "brightest athletics prospects", he is a role model for younger athletes.

He "will henceforth work with SA and the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) to promote a positive image of the sport to the best of his ability," added the statement.

SA also said that it is “committed to supporting Mr Soh to once again don national colours and compete for Singapore against the best in the region and the world” as he aims to become the first Singaporean man to qualify for the Commonwealth Games Marathon and Asian Games Marathon.

SA’s announcement comes four days after a successful High Court application by its former legal counsel, Mahmood Gaznavi of Mahmood Gaznavi & Partners, to strike out Soh’s allegation of malice in the suit.

Soh told The Straits Times: “I’d like to thank Lien and his team for the extensive effort they have put into this to make things work. I look forward to working with them over the next two years, and hopefully beyond, to bring SA to new heights.”

When contacted, Lien played down his team's role in the mending of fences, instead crediting Soh and the SNOC, as well as Soh's lawyer Clarence Lun of Foxwood LLC, and SA's legal team, Breakpoint LLC.

"We serve to help support the athletes and the sport… I'm merely a small middleman in all of this," said Lien.

On Malik stepping down, he said: “Malik was on secondment from SNOC to serve as the general manager and then in SA, and he has requested to return to SNOC, which we acceded to. SA is grateful for his contributions over the past 1 1/2 years.”