Since 2019, the defamation lawsuit against marathon runner Soh Rui Yong has been widely publicised. A string of remarks on social media by the athlete resulted in a court case spanning years.
The saga, however, appears to have finally come to an end.
Soh has lost his appeal against the defamation lawsuit by his former teammate Ashley Liew. The appeal was contesting the results of the lawsuit from last September when Soh was ordered by a district judge to pay Liew S$180,000 in damages.
On Monday (28 Mar), a High Court judge upheld the court ruling and ordered Soh to pay additional costs for the appeal hearing on top of other fees.
The Straits Times (ST) reports that High Court Justice Valerie Thean has dismissed Soh’s appeal against a district court’s order to pay Liew S$180,000 in damages for defamation.
In September last year, District Judge Lee Li Choon ordered Soh to pay Liew S$120,000 in general damages and S$60,000 in aggravated damages.
This was for five statements Soh made about an act of fair play by Liew, which the latter disputed in court.
Now, Justice Thean has ordered Soh to pay S$18,000 in appeal hearing costs. This is on top of another S$125,000 he was ordered to pay in February for the district court trial.
However, Justice Thean also ruled that Soh need not post a public apology on his social media pages.
Soh, who is currently in London pursuing a law degree, stated that he will comply with the judge’s ruling and “move forward from here”.
The defamation suit Liew filed against Soh has been an ongoing conflict that started in 2019.
Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reports that during the 2015 SEA games, Liew made a turn at a marathon race that his fellow teammates – including Soh – had missed.
Liew then slowed down to allow them to catch up and ended up finishing eighth, with Soh winning the race. The move was reported as an act of fair play, and Liew was awarded for his act of sportsmanship.
However, Soh posted five statements on social media starting in Oct 2018, stating that this act of fair play was misreported.
According to CNA, he wrote in the post:
This fictional version of events that transpired that day… is simply not true, and I think it’s time to stop living in imagination.
Liew then filed a defamation lawsuit against Soh. Throughout the trial, Soh maintained that his statements were not defamatory as the public account of Liew’s actions were untrue.
However, Justice Thean ruled that the statements went beyond just claiming Liew was undeserving of the recognition. Soh’s comments put forward the narrative of Liew lying about slowing down, thus warranting the exorbitant penalty.
The trial has evidently been arduous, spanning several years and incurring losses on both sides. What was supposed to be a heartwarming moment for sports fans has now been diminished by court proceedings.
Admittedly, both parties could have handled the situation better.
With this conclusion, we hope that both athletes can now grow past this saga.
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Featured image adapted from Soh Rui Yong on Facebook.
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