“I am destroyed mentally and reputationally. And the attacks keep coming. Clearly, I am not wanted.”
In a statement on Tuesday, November 23, Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena slammed what he described as “shifting allegations” by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) in the latest sorry development rocking the local sports community.
According to Obiena, the national athletics federation has shifted its allegations against him from embezzlement to late payments.
“I am personally shocked at the recent statement and shifting allegations of PATAFA. From their written letters of accusing me of embezzlement; to suddenly changing it to timing of payments,” wrote Obiena in his statement.
Obiena, arguably among the best pole vaulter ever produced by the country, added: “Just say the word, and I will formally retire from Philippine Athletics… Let’s just say it and we all move on.”
PATAFA accused Obiena of embezzlement and ordered the return of 85,000 euros (P4.8 million). PATAFA claimed it has documents that showed that the 26-year-old Olympian has not been paying his Russian coach Vitaly Petrov in the last three years.
Obiena, the current Asian pole vault record holder, said he would file a complaint of defamation and slander against PATAFA. He said the organization did not disclose all the documents it allegedly acquired, specifically Petrov’s affidavit that claimed he did not receive payments.
“I will clear my name. I will raise all legal challenges and I want this to be put into a court of law, where all evidence must be exposed,” wrote Obiena.
“PATAFA keeps saying they have a signed written complaint from Vitaly Petrov. Vitaly claims the exact opposite. PATAFA has leaked every other document. Why have they not leaked the signed affidavit of Vitaly Petrov?
“Perhaps this doesn’t exist? Now that is a crime. Falsifying the existence of a document. It’s called fraud!”
Obiena also revealed the reality of his situation as a national athlete, where he was also tasked to handle all the accounting because of the federation’s failure to pay the coach directly.
He admitted delays in paying Vitaly, but also said he paid transfer fees out of his own pocket.
“I am sometimes late on paperwork, and I mix up the order of what needs to be done first. I lose track of paper and transfers from time to time and can’t reorganize and audit everything while I am competing for the country during the season,” added Obiena.
“When I am changing countries every 36 hours, I am sorry I can’t stop everything and reconcile all my finances.”
In his statement, Obiena accused PATAFA of getting pole vault great and Petrov’s former student Sergey Bubka to make the statement about non-payment of fee. Obiena denied this allegation.
Obiena said he was willing to “make peace,” but reiterated he was set on retiring if things did not change as his funding has been cut while he is in Italy.
“It is clear I am not wanted by my federation in any shape or form. I am attacked without any due process and now narrative and accusations have somehow changed,” said Obiena. – Rappler.com