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Monday, February 4, 2008

Tao Li taken to task over comments

Tao Li taken to task over comments
They slam her reluctance to donate 6% of her earnings to youth
By Wang Meng Meng

TAO Li's view that she should not part with a portion of her winnings for youth development has not gone down well with the sports fraternity.
The swimmer is reluctant to give 6 per cent, or $1,425, back to youth development, as part of the newly introduced 15 per cent levy imposed by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA).

That sum is derived from the $23,750 the 17-year-old schoolgirl will receive under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP). She earned the incentive after winning three individual titles and one team gold at last year's South-east Asia Games.

SingaporeSailing president Low Teo Ping was one of those who faulted her stand, saying: 'This is what I call a GGA - a Greedy, Grabbing Athlete. Very sad, you know.

'Every time my sailors go out and perform well, I thank them for making my job easier because when they do well, I continue to get funding.

'On top of that, they will be contributing to our development fund and they're happy to do so.'

Singapore Athletic Association supremo Loh Lin Kok was similarly critical, saying: 'It's not wrong for the association to stipulate a certain percentage be taken out from the MAP award to be pumped into youth development.

'To quarrel about it after the association puts in money to promote an athlete's interest is insincere. It doesn't leave a good taste in the mouth either.

'It is good that the SSA wants to show its transparency in exactly what it is doing with the money.

'Tao Li's still a teenager. She's also going to benefit from the money put back into development.'

For Singapore Table Tennis Association general manager Jackie Tay, the levy has not caused any friction between the association and its athletes.

He said: 'Our players donate 20 per cent of their MAP award, which will be used for the development of our academy players.

'This practice has been implemented for years and it is also explained clearly to our players. That is why there has been no adverse reaction from our paddlers.'

Bodybuilder Simon Chua, who has two Asian Games and three SEA Games golds, is also supportive of the levy.

He said: 'I believe in loyalty. The federation has been loyal to me throughout my career. Likewise, I must show the same.

'That's why I don't mind signing the agreement for my winnings to be 'taxed'.

'Altogether, I have made $530,000 from the MAP. The federation takes 15 per cent and this is an amount I have given willingly.'

But there are also those who stand in Tao Li's corner.

Freddie Choo, a reader, wrote: 'Instead of taking from Tao Li and other champions, the SSA should approach the government for more funding for youth development, using the track records of these champions to leverage their application.

'Why must the SSA feel they must take something back just because they have given to the swimmers?

'The swimmers have given too. The SSA could have spent 10 times more and not groomed any winners. So let's honour our champions instead of 'taxing' them.''

Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck has urged national sports associations (NSAs) to be transparent in the implementation of such levies.

He said: 'I believe the SSA has supported Tao Li, sent her for overseas competitions and these things cost money.

'Maybe she didn't have enough information and she has her own point of view.

'On the other hand, if the SSA wants to implement policies, it would be good to have dialogues with stakeholders for feedback.'

Sailor Maximilian Soh, who bagged an Asian Games gold in Doha, agreed with Mr Teo's call for the levy process to be transparent.

He said: 'I don't mind giving money back to the association. After all, they groomed the athletes and it is good that money is going back to the roots of the sport.

'But I'm concerned about transparency. I have given $52,000 from my MAP awards back to SingaporeSailing and I would like to know what it went to.

'I hope the money can be used to reward the coaches, to boost youth development and to be used as financial assistance to former sailors.'

The Singapore National Olympic Council, which administers the MAP scheme, declined comment. The Singapore Totalisator Board, which is the scheme's primary sponsor, did not reply by press time.

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