Olympic star Pandelela Rinong among seven Malaysian divers punished for drinking alcohol during China training camp
Reaction from netizens is mixed, with one calling for a lifetime ban and others feeling they should be able to party now and again
Already rocked by a sexual harassment scandal, Malaysian diving has come under the spotlight again after a video on social media appeared to show seven of their top athletes – including two-time Olympic medallist Pandelela Rinong – partying and drinking alcohol during a training camp in Guangzhou.
The reaction of Malaysian netizens has been mixed with at least one Facebook user calling for a lifetime ban on the seven, while others felt they were entitled to have some fun.
“If this is the way my taxpaying money is spent, I want no part of it,” wrote one netizen. “I don’t care if she’s an Olympic medallist, or if anyone in there could potentially bring sporting glory to Malaysia. These divers should be banned for life.”
Others were more accommodating.
“Nothing wrong done,” wrote one user. “They are entitled to enjoy themselves from time to time after their normal hectic schedule as athletes. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill.”
However, Asum, the governing body for Malaysian swimming, has taken a grim view of its athletes letting their hair down during a training stint and has suspended their allowances – with more disciplinary action expected.
“The athletes have fallen short in this case,” said Asum secretary Mae Chen. “As national athletes, they should be aware that they carry the image of the country.
“A warning has been given to them. As athletes, they should have been devoted to training locally and overseas, as it involves the government’s money.
Watch Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong win silver at the Rio Olympics
“The athletes have admitted to their wrongdoing and have promised never to do it again. They’ve learned from their mistakes and they have apologised to the public.”
Three of the divers – Pandelela, Nur Dhabitah Sabri and Chew Yiwei – are part of the elite podium programme, while the other four – Hanis Nazirul Jaya Surya, Jellson Jabillin, Gabriel Gilbert Daim and Kimberly Bong – are junior divers.
The video showed the group partying and drinking alcohol during Lunar New Year in Guangzhou in February.
Chen said three coaches were with the team but were unaware of the incident, which she said took place in a private area. She said an investigation committee will look into the case and decide the next move.
Pandelela, who won silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics and bronze in London 2012, is among the favourites for the 10m platform events at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August.
In December, Malaysia’s media reported that Pandelela had hit former coach Huang Qiang with a slipper after he kicked her during a row over a volleyball game.
In April, China-born Huang was freed of a rape charge by the Sessions Court. Last year, Huang was charged with raping a 20-year-old diver at the National Aquatics Centre on September 26. Huang had pleaded not guilty.
It led to accusations by Malaysian authorities that national coach Yang Zhuliang, the former China coach, had “allowed an environment of rape, sexual harassment and violence to continue” in the Malaysian diving community.