It’s been quite a year for the country’s leading pole vaulter, EJ Obiena. After reaching the finals in the men’s pole vault event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 26-year old climbed up the world rankings to become fifth in the world.
Needless to say, EJ Obiena has been making his country proud, competing in various athletics competitions of the highest level around the world. This is why it came as a total shock as in late November, Obiena was accused of embezzling his training funds by Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).Â
The controversy came to the point that Obiena mulled over early retirement from the sport in a press statement. What’s the issue about, you may be wondering? Well, PATAFA alleged Obiena of falsifying the liquidation reports he submitted to the association. The organization also claimed that he failed to pay his coach, Vitaly Petrov, the sum of â‚¬85,000 (over P4.8 million) for training the 26-year-old since 2016.
A little over a month after the issue came to light, the Philippine Olympic Committee has decided to declare PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico a “persona non grata.” As per CNN Philippines, the POC executive board gave its approval to its ethics committee to carry on with the move.
“We do not recognize him anymore as president of PATAFA until the new election of its president,” the committee said.
On the other hand, POC President Abraham Tolentino stressed that PATAFA remains recognized as the national association for the sport despite this development. Juico has yet to make a statement in line with POC’s decision.
Meanwhile, the POC has affirmed that they will support Obiena in future international competitions. “If PATAFA won’t endorse him, which I doubt they would, then we will,” Tolentino said.
Given how much hard work, time, and sacrifice Obiena has logged in for the nation, it’s good to know that justice has been served. Obiena has yet to make a public statement in response to POC’s decision. However, he did offer some encouraging words in his Christmas greeting.
“This has been exhausting not just for me and my team but to a lot of people. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone who have supported me through and through. You guys are the reason I keep fighting and still fighting. To everyone who stood by my side, from my coach to my parents to my sponsors and most importantly to my fans, Thank you. You guys give me strength,” he captioned in the post.
While the issue may be far from over, it looks like things are looking up for Obiena. Now, all we can do is wait.
Art Daniella Sison