Suspended track V-Ps back in posts

They were unceremoniously suspended by the Singapore Athletics Association, but vice-presidents Loh Chan Pew and Steven Lee have been reinstated to their respective positions in the national sports body yesterday.

This about-turn follows the findings released by the SAA yesterday of an independent three- member appeals panel, headed by local senior sports administrator Low Teo Ping.

The panel ruled that the SAA management committee's earlier process taken to suspend the duo was "not robust enough".

One key point of contention was that Loh, 69, was not even present at the February meeting which meted out his suspension.

The duo's reinstatement, however, does not clear them of the alleged misbehaviour which led to their suspension.

Technically, the SAA can move to suspend them again and the duo will also have the right to defend and, if necessary, appeal.

However, SAA president Tang Weng Fei will not be doing so, as he stressed that he wants to move on from this episode.

With his association's elections coming up in June, Tang said: "The due process taken to suspend them was not correct and I accept the decision of the panel, which is final and binding.

"The issue is over and I do not want to go through it over again. There are a lot of things to be done and I don't want to waste any more time handling this."

Tang had earlier suspended the two vice-presidents for acts he deemed had undermined the authority of the SAA executive committee.

Loh, who was also taken to task for alleged aggressive behaviour, had sent a letter of complaint to Sport Singapore, alleging irregularities within the national athletics body.

Among his allegations was that a high-ranking SAA official had used the association's vehicle for personal use and submitted fraudulent mileage claims.

At the instruction of SportSG, Tang also set up a three-member board of inquiry, which is still looking into the allegations made by Loh. The board, made up of SAA members, will submit its findings before May 15.

When contacted yesterday, Loh called his reinstatement a "vindication", and reiterated that all allegations made against him were groundless.

He said: "I am very pleased with the decision of the independent appeal committee, as this only goes to further validate that my conscience is clear."

Loh added that he is eagerly awaiting the findings of the board of inquiry, saying: "I see it as my duty to ensure that wrongdoings do not have a foothold within the SAA, as public money is involved."

Lee, 63, who was suspended for allegedly overstepping his authority when he contacted the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) without the association's knowledge, also welcomes his reinstatement.

Adding that he was expecting an apology from Tang, he said: "If I could not correspond with the IAAF to inquire about its procedures, who can? This is part and parcel of my role.

"The charge brought on by the SAA president to suspend me had completely strayed beyond coherence to begin with."