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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HARESH SAYS: When (AFC) silence is not golden

HARESH SAYS: When silence is not golden

As published in Malay Mail today

by Haresh Deol

A SENIOR official claims a senior colleague suggested to “hide or tamper” documents. On any other day, such accusations will warrant a full investigation.

But in the case of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), it was a revelation that was video recorded and presumably kept aside. 

Malay Mail had last Saturday revealed AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong, in a video recording on July 26, 2012, claimed AFC general secretary Datuk Alex Soosay said “protect me” before suggesting “can you tamper or hide documents that relate to me”.

Kuan had, in the video, said the conversation between him and Soosay took place at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil on July 23, 2012, three days before former Fifa investigator Michael John Pride recorded the statement. This was during the 2012 audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Kuan refused to talk when contacted last week. Soosay vehemently denied the contents of the video. 
I will not go into the details of the video. Instead, I would like to know if Kuan had lodged a formal complaint to AFC president Sheikh Salman Ibrahim Al Khalifah regarding the matter.

If yes, did Salman take any steps to address the issue? After all, his promise, when made president in 2013 was to initiate reforms.

Also, shouldn’t Pride have reported it to Fifa?

The expose comes as delegates from football associations in Asia select their new committee during the elections in Manama tomorrow.

AFC in an email reply to the writer, said: “The AFC takes note of recent media allegations concerning a case dating from 2012, and is currently seeking to assess the veracity of these allegations.  Any new information will be passed on to the relevant bodies for consideration as appropriate.” 

Former AFC general secretary Datuk Peter Velappan was right to say AFC belongs to national associations in Asia, fans and media. The regional body has to explain what came out from the PwC report. Were the recommendations made by PwC followed through and were any action taken?
Prior to the video, those within and the authorities kept saying the “case is closed”. But no one could explained how they arrived at that decision. 

Former AFC financial director Amelia Gan and her husband Tony Kong Lee Toong were implicated in the theft of missing documents at AFC House. Kong claimed trial on Sept 19, 2012. On Nov 9, 2012, Kong’s lawyer Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin said prosecutors decided to drop the charge but he did not give any reasons.

Will the Attorney-General’s Chambers explain why it dropped the charge against Kong? Will police now re-investigate the theft claims following the contents of the video?

There is now the presumption the PwC report was done to unseat former AFC president Mohammad Hammam over his alleged corrupt practices. As Hammam was slapped with a life ban from Fifa and quit all football related activities in December 2012, critics believe the report has served its purpose. But what about the other revelations made by PwC?

There is a lot of explaining to do. We are stakeholders and we demand answers. Silence is not an option. 

Declare, don’t deny

Lee Chong Wei’s ban officially ends tomorrow. He is one happy shuttler.

Singapore radio station 938Live had on Monday asked me if the backdated eight-month ban was a “let-off” for the former world No 1. 

I replied Lee went through uncertainty during the period, enough to cause one mental and emotional torture. Also the verdict leaves a black stain on his resume. 

Lee was slapped with the ban after he was found guilty of taking the banned substance dexamethasone. The Badminton World Federation Doping hearing panel, had in its extensive judgment, revealed on Monday: “Stressing ‘the responsibility to act without negligence is the personal obligation of the athlete’, the panel raised questions about Lee’s level of ‘anti-doping education/anti-doping security’, highlighting the athlete put himself at risk by ‘accepting cordyseps for about seven years from a private person without any knowledge or control regarding how the cordyceps have been treated and encapsulated’.”

Lee, at a press conference on Monday, said he took the medicine from his parent. The BWF panel, in its full judgment, revealed Lee has been taking cordyceps since he was 13 “because his mother believed it was beneficial for his health”.

Paragraph 24 of the report read: “In around 2005, the athlete befriended the wife of a very influential man in Malaysia. In around 2007 or 2008, this lady gave the athlete some of her own supply of pure cordyceps. She purchase cordyceps in raw whole form and arranges for it to be powdered and capsulated at the same store in KL. She began to send Lee and her cordyceps capsules on regular basis as a gift.”

The lady, apparently, is a wife of a former minister. A National Sports Institute (NSI) nutritionist was informed about the matter but why wasn’t it red-flagged? Did she simply assume it was “safe” to consume? The capsule could have been contaminated while being manufactured and this is made worse as it is not from a certified pharmaceutical company. Questions are also being raised if the supplement has the necessary approval from the authorities.

Lee will want to quickly forget this episode. But athletes must realise the importance of sharing information and working with the respective support teams including NSI. 

Let’s not sweep this episode under the carpet. Stakeholders must work together and ensure our athletes know what they are consuming. They cannot assume. 

Perhaps a pledge by the national associations and federations could seal their commitment in educating our athletes, in order for them to understand the consequences of taking banned substances.

Lee is blessed he receives good support from the BA of Malaysia and his sponsors. Plenty has been spent, especially in the hiring of Mike Morgan, who represented Lee during the hearing in Amsterdam earlier this month. 

Perhaps Lee could repay his supporters by educating athletes about the importance of declaring what they consume. 

He could use this saga as an example, reminding our future stars that silence or ignorance is not golden.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached or on Twitter @HareshDeol

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