Singapore—As if marathoner Soh Rui Yong does not have his hands already full with recent lawsuits, he has told his solicitors to file a counterclaim against fellow runner Ashley Liew for defamation.
Mr Soh, who won back-to-back gold medals for the SEA Games marathon in 2015 and 2017, in the past weeks filed cases against track-and-field governing body Singapore Athletics (SA) and Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied, its executive director.
In August the marathoner was excluded from the line-up of athletes representing Singapore in this year’s SEA Games in the Philippines because he “displayed conduct that falls short of the standards of attitude and behaviour that the SNOC expects of and holds its athletes to,” according to the Singapore National Olympic Council.
This resulted in him filing a writ of defamation against both SA and Mr Malik Aljunied.
The situation with Ashley Liew actually harks back to 2015. That year, Mr Liew received an award for sportsmanship after the 28th South East Asian Games, wherein due to poor visibility, he claimed that his rivals took missed a turn and ended up on the wrong path, which gave Mr Liew an unfair advantage in the race. Mr Liew then waited for the runners instead of going ahead, an act perceived to have cost him a place in the race.
The runner was widely lauded for this act, and was even mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally that year, as well as given a special award for sportsmanship at the Singapore Sports Awards the following year.
He also won an international prize for sportsmanship, the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy, having been nominated by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).
However, in October of last year, Mr Soh, objected to the story via a Facebook post, calling it untrue. He wrote, “I was third place in that race when we took the wrong turn. When we turned around perhaps 50m into the wrong turn, Ashley was already running in the other direction. We took quite a while to catch up to him (at least one to two minutes), he certainly did not stop or slow down to wait for us.
Until today, there remains no evidence (video, statements from marshalls at the U-turn etc) of this supposed act of sportsmanship, apart from Ashley’s own claim.”
The argument escalated into legal filings, and Mr Soh called out the SNOC for failing “to remain neutral and investigate on the truth.”
On October 21, the SNOC stood by its decision regarding Mr Liew’s innocence. “We are proud of Ashley Liew and gratified that his act of sportsmanship, which was verified, has earned his recognition on the world stage by the International Fair Play Committee.”
Earlier this year, in June, Mr Liew filed a lawsuit against Mr Soh for defamation, seeking a court order for Mr Soh to retract his remarks that implied that he had lied and was undeserving of the sportsmanship award.
On Wednesday, October 9, Mr Soh wrote in his blog, “I have instructed my solicitors to file a counterclaim against Mr Ashley Liew for defamation. My solicitors have circulated a draft of the counterclaim for the Plaintiff’s consent prior to filing the counterclaim to the Honourable Court, failing which my solicitors will make the relevant application to the Honourable Court.”
After outlining the particulars of the lawsuit, Mr Soh added, “I have always spoken the truth and nothing but the truth on what I saw that day at the wrong turn of the 2015 SEA Games Marathon. All of the above accusations are manifestly untrue and I have no choice but to file a countersuit against Liew to defend myself from his defamatory statements.”/ TISG