Monday, February 2, 2009

Caught alone together: Top triathletes banned

Feb 1, 2009

By Jeanette Wang

Singapore's top male and top female triathletes have been slapped with a competition ban for being caught alone together in a hotel room at the Asian Beach Games in Bali last October.

Mr Mok Ying Ren, 20, and Miss Dinah Chan, 22, were told of their punishment late last week following an investigation into the incident by an inquiry panel, a Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS) spokesman said yesterday.

Neither the spokesman nor the two triathletes wanted to reveal details of the ban or incident.

But the pair are believed to have infringed the TAS' code of conduct for athletes which forbids male and female athletes from sharing a room and requires the door to be kept open when there is a visitor of the opposite gender.

Although the duration of the ban is unknown, it is unlikely that the duo would be prevented from competing at the major races this year - the first of which will be the March 27-29 Mekong River ITU Triathlon Asian Cup in Thailand.

Mr Mok, a National University of Singapore medical student and the reigning South-east Asia Games men's champion, would only say: 'We are very happy with the investigation carried out by the TAS and its outcome.

'We would like to put the issue behind us and move forward. Personally, I would like to focus on my training and medical studies, which are more important right now, and not be distracted by this.'

The pair were the only two triathletes among 37 Singapore athletes at the inaugural 17sport Asian Beach Games, and were accompanied by team manager David Hoong and national coach Guo Weidong.

Mr Mok finished the race - including a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run - 12th out of 35 competitors while Miss Chan was ninth out of 15.

The athletes had arrived on Oct 24 and were staying in separate rooms at the Mercure Resort Sanur hotel near Mertasari Beach, the venue of their Oct 26 event.

Sources said that Miss Chan, a National Institute of Education post-graduate student, feared for her safety - the athletes had allegedly been informed of bomb threats - and could not sleep well on the first night. So she went to Mr Mok's room, which was in another block.

The duo - widely speculated in the triathlon fraternity to be dating - are believed to have been caught, although not in a compromising position, when Mr Guo visited the room that night.

Subsequently, the TAS launched an investigation with an inquiry panel consisting of three members - one each from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), TAS and another national sports association (NSA).

Mr Mahipal Singh, Singapore's chef-de-mission at the Games, said there was no specific rule pertaining to the Games that athletes of the opposite sex could not be in the same room.

However, Mr Singh, who is also SSC's assistant director of coaching development, added that athletes are expected to 'uphold good behaviour and the image of Singapore'.

A check with a number of NSAs showed codes of conduct similar to that of the TAS - even if the athletes are dating or married.

Said Singapore Hockey Federation president Annabel Pennefather: 'You can't just say it's part of your private life when you're travelling as part of a Singapore contingent or team.

'When you're there to give your best for your country, you have to observe certain codes of behaviour. You have to abide by the rules.'

But some people felt a competition ban was too harsh a punishment.

'It's a bit over the top to ban them. Both parties could have just been reprimanded,' said national shooter Lee Wung Yew, who has competed in nine SEA Games and three Olympics.

'But I suppose rules are rules, and they broke the rules so they have to pay the price.'

jwang@sph.com.sg

[Give the couple (if they are indeed a couple) a break! Not even in a "compromising position", it should have just been verbal on the spot, warning and forget about the incident. Like that, how will Singapore ever get the marriage and birth rates up. Some more these are two athletes, their children (if they eventually get down to it) would likely be athletes too! SDU should come to their rescue.]

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