EJ Obiena

EJ Obiena to take legal action vs PATAFA over funding row

Beatrice Go
EJ Obiena to take legal action vs PATAFA over funding row

POLE VAULT STAR. EJ Obiena competing in Belgium, September 3, 2021.

Johanna Geron/Reuters

Filipino pole vault star EJ Obiena rejects allegations of embezzlement and demands an apology from PATAFA

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena plans to file a complaint against the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) after it accused him of embezzling his training funds.

In a press conference on Sunday, November 21, Obiena said he will file a defamation and slander complaint with the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), International Olympic Committee (IOC), and World Athletics over the statements made against him by PATAFA.

Obiena confirmed that his funding has been cut while he is in Formia, Italy, and it is uncertain whether he will be able to continue his training, even with the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games looming in 2022.

The 26-year-old Tokyo 2020 Olympian also said he would consider retiring from pole vaulting if he is unable to continue his training or if the federation forces him to train with a Filipino coach.

“I truly believe in producing something and to perform in a way that I should have in Tokyo. With the current situation, how could I perform to my best?” said Obiena.

“It’s futile for me to continue with the current situation. I’m a 26-year-old in life. I can’t waste somebody’s time. I’m happy to walk away. I’m proud of where I am, I’m proud of what I brought to the country, I’m proud of what I have achieved.”

On Sunday, the Inquirer published a report that Obiena is being investigated and ordered by PATAFA to return 85,000 euros (P4.8 million) – the amount claimed to have not been paid to his current coach Vitaly Petrov.

The report also claimed that Petrov and pole vault great Sergey Bubka wrote to PATAFA that Obiena had falsified the liquidation forms.

In Sunday’s press conference, Petrov denied the supposed dialogue with PATAFA and confirmed that Obiena has fully paid him for his services.

“I don’t understand what this federation is doing and what comes out of this. This is a shame,” said Petrov, who continues to support Obiena.

Obiena has yet to hear back from PATAFA, the POC, the IOC, and World Athletics.

The controversy, he said, has left him confused and he does not know what the motives behind the accusations are.

Obiena demanded a retraction of the statements against him and a public apology from the national sports association.

“There was no due process, no benefit of the doubt. They’ve slandered my name. I represent the federation before anything else. I deserve an apology, retraction of that, and public apology for whatever is happening,” he said.

The Filipino pole vault star currently ranks No. 6 in the world and is the current Asian record holder in the sport. He was the first Filipino to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where he finished 11th place. – Rappler.com

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.