“These rumours are 100% false and represent nothing more than character assassination,” the pole vaulter said in a statement.
Despite the many accolades that EJ Obiena has achieved for the Philippines, the country now stands to lose the gifted pole vaulter to retirement after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) accused the athlete of embezzling his training funds.
According to news reports, PATAFA alleged Obiena of falsifying the liquidation reports he submitted to the association and claimed that he failed to pay his coach, Vitaly Petrov, the sum of €85,000 (over P4.8 million) for training the 26-year-old since 2016.
In a press statement on Sunday, Obiena addressed the allegations, saying that the allegations are false and that they have tarnished his character. He also plans to pursue the case to any ends, including demanding an apology from the sports federation – else he will consider “immediate retirement” from the sport.
“I’ve filed formal complaints with the POC, IOC, and the World Athletics, as we are now talking standard defamation of character,” read Obiena’s press statement. “I have retained legal counsel and I do intend to pursue this vigorously. “This entire incident has damaged my reputation. I welcome any court of law to shed light under the power of evidence and investigate this matter.”
Obiena added: “The only resolution to this now is a full and public withdrawal of investigation and a full public apology from the authorities involved in this. f this does not happen, I will consider my other options being an immediate retirement from the sport that I love in the Philippines and probably return to school.”
Petrov refuted PATAFA’s claims of non-payment on Sunday by retorting that Obiena had indeed compensated him with his €5,000 monthly stipend. Petrov confirmed this through a letter addressed to PATAFA President Philip Ella Juico.
In a separate social media post, Obiena shared his adamant feelings over defending his ground: “I have prided myself in embracing the values of discipline, competitiveness, honour, transparency and respect. This doesn’t change even in times of crisis.”
“The only thing we truly own in life is our reputation. I will fiercely defend mine from baseless allegations; which expose the political underbelly of some in the world of sports.”
Obiena, who finished 11th in the pole vault competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, continued to make waves by jumping to fifth in the world pole vault ranking following his breakthrough performance at the Paris Diamond League in September. In the same month, Obiena smashed the Asian continental record by clearing the height of 5.93m at the Golden Roof Challenge in Australia.