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SNOC sends legal letter to marathoner Soh, demands he retracts allegations against Ashley Liew

SINGAPORE — National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has received a legal letter over his allegations that teammate Ashley Liew did not slow down at the 2015 SEA Games men’s marathon final to allow his rivals who had made a wrong turn to catch up.

SNOC sends legal letter to marathoner Soh, demands he retracts allegations against Ashley Liew

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong, seen here at at the Seoul Marathon on March 17 where he broke a 24-year-old national record, has refused to back down from his claims that compatriot Ashley Liew's account of the race was "untrue".

SINGAPORE — National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has received a legal letter over his allegations that teammate Ashley Liew did not slow down at the 2015 SEA Games men’s marathon final to allow his rivals who had made a wrong turn to catch up.

In serving the letter, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) — the body that nominated Liew for an award for his act of “sportsmanship” — demanded that Soh publicly retracts his allegations and admit that his claims were wrong.

In October last year, Soh had in a Facebook post disputed Liew’s account of events that also saw the latter awarded the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy.

Soh, a two-time SEA Games gold medallist, has been given till April 8 to do so, according to the letter delivered to him by the SNOC’s lawyers from Rajah & Tann on Monday (April 1).

When contacted by TODAY, Soh insisted that he would not back down from his claims. “I’m not going to take it down and retract it (because that) will be me saying I’m lying,” said the 27-year-old.

“Of course, it’s not a nice situation. If they want to make it into a law case, it’s a big organisation against me and they have more money. But I’m not going to do that because my statement is true.”

Ashley Liew (pictured) was recognised by the SNOC in 2016 with a special award for his sportsmanship and received the Pierre de Coubertin accolade in the same year.

At the marathon event four years ago, Liew suddenly found himself in the lead by about 50m when his rivals missed a U-turn and took the wrong path. He said then that he slowed down to almost a crawl to allow them to catch up.

Liew’s actions were widely publicised and earned him praise from many Singaporeans. He was recognised by the SNOC in 2016 with a special award for his sportsmanship and received the Pierre de Coubertin accolade in the same year.

But Soh later alleged that Liew’s account of the race was “untrue”. He made the comment after an Oct 13, 2018 post by the International Fair Play Committee — which had awarded Liew the accolade — called Liew a role model for fair play.

Soh claimed that his teammate had not slowed down for his rivals and that he only spoke up three years after the incident as he had not expected the story to “snowball into two sportsmanship medals”, adding that his “one and only regret” was not speaking up sooner.

The marathoner’s claims were later backed up by Filipino runner Rafael Poliquit — one of the 12 runners competing in that race — and two witnesses who had previously coached Soh.

With Soh’s comments igniting a heated debate among the fraternity and the public, the SNOC said then that it stood by its decision to nominate Liew for the award.

On Monday, its legal letter said that the SNOC, through its solicitors, has interviewed “various individuals” who witnessed the event that day. At least four of them have provided SNOC with sworn statutory declarations that they saw Liew slowing down to allow the other runners to catch up.

These individuals’ statements can only mean that Soh’s “allegations about Mr Liew are false and intended to mislead and/or cause mischief”, said the letter.

The SNOC’s lawyers also noted that Soh’s postings attracted various comments from third parties, including remarks that the SNOC was “not interested in the facts” and that the council should investigate and make an “objective finding”.

They also pointed out that his allegation that Liew had lied about slowing down also “cast aspersions on the merit and integrity” of the SNOC’s nomination of Liew for the Fair Play Trophy.

The SNOC also intends to clarify and put on record that various individuals have provided their first-hand accounts of the events that transpired during the 2015 marathon race which support Liew’s version and “fully justify” the SNOC’s submission of his candicacy for the award, said the letter.

“In light of these statutory declarations, SNOC invites you to now publicly retract and withdraw your allegations made about Mr Liew and admit you were wrong about your allegations by no later than 5pm, 8 April 2019,” the letter stated.

Soh is also required to submit a draft of his retraction, withdrawal and admission to SNOC for approval before they are made public.

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