By Leonard Lim
A STORM is brewing within the athletics fraternity, after some unsavoury events at a regional meet in Phuket last month.
A team official caught several Singapore athletes, most of them under 18 years of age, consuming alcohol at the end of the two-day South-east Asia Junior Championships.
There are also allegations that the Singapore Athletic Association official, youth development coach Alfred Sim, had made no attempt to stop the teenagers when he discovered them drinking in their hotel room during a spot-check on May 23.
Instead, the 27-year-old apparently joined his charges in playing card games into the wee hours of the morning after the meet. Earlier that night, he had also allegedly brought a few of the young athletes out to smoke shisha – a pipe with which flavoured tobacco is puffed.
The SAA is considering referring the matter to the respective athletes’ schools for disciplinary action to be taken.
But some parents are upset by this decision. ‘This matter happened when the teenagers were representing the country and not their schools, so we should keep it within the athletics fraternity,’ said one parent, who declined to be named.
‘It was an SAA trip, what has it go to do with the schools?’ Some of the athletes come from prestigious secondary schools and he was concerned that if schools were involved, severe punishments – such as expulsion – could be meted out.
Sim, a former national 4x100metres runner, has denied the accusations and has declined further comment. But that has not stopped a chorus of voices calling for action to be taken against him if the allegations are true.
Said the mother of one athlete: ‘We entrust our kids in these officials’ care when they are overseas because, as parents, we can’t accompany them there.
‘Our hope is that the officials will ensure our children are well taken care of, and not allow – much less join in – such activities. Drinking and smoking will affect our kids’ health and performance, both in school and as athletes.’
In addressing the concerns, SAA president Loh Lin Kok stressed that he and his staff had spent the past three weeks investigating the matter. ‘We’re considering our options now, and one of them includes referring the matter to the respective schools for the necessary action to be taken,’ he said.
Loh added that he was aware of the accusations that Sim was involved, but these had so far been unproven. He said: ‘Unless those who claim he was part of this or instigated it come forward, we will take Alfred’s word on what happened.’
Another athletics official felt the matter should be seen in perspective.
‘Let’s admit it, teenagers will be teenagers. They just wanted to have some fun on what was, for some of them, their first overseas competition. Let’s not blow it up too much.’
The saga has taken the shine off what had been Singapore’s best performance at the annual competition, which is seen as a breeding ground for future SEA Games stars.
Sprinter Calvin Kang (100m), long jumper Matthew Goh and discus thrower Scott Wong won golds. The Republic’s budding talents also bagged three silvers and four bronzes.