From bad to worse

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Things got from bad to worse when PATAFA announced the other day it will take steps to delist world No. 6 pole vaulter EJ Obiena from the national rolls, file a criminal case against the athlete for allegedly falsifying liquidation documents, declare Obienas adviser Jim Lafferty “persona non grata,” terminate Obienas Ukrainian coach Vitaliy Petrov and even take to court Obienas mother Jeanette for misuse of funds.

PATAFA based its latest moves on the findings of an investigating body that was created by the organization and made up of PATAFA Board members. The announcement came after the POC Ethics Commission submitted its own findings of Obienas complaint of harassment against PATAFA president Popoy Juico to the POC Executive Board which then declared Juico “persona non grata.” Obiena submitted his complaint to the POC Athletes Commission which in turn, endorsed it to the Ethics Commission for adjudication.

Juico, however, said he does not accept the Ethics Commissions jurisdiction over the case because it involves an internal affair between an NSA and its athlete. But the issue transcends any thread of a technicality. This involves a world-class athlete being hung to dry by his own NSA over matters that couldve been easily resolved with sober minds, understanding and less emotion. As it is, PATAFA has become a laughing stock in World Athletics for its failure to settle a personal misunderstanding between a leader and an athlete.

Dragging Lafferty, Petrov and Obienas mother into this mess seems to be a tactic to diffuse the enemy. Lafferty has supported Filipino athletes without expecting anything in return for over a decade. He has spent a tidy sum of his own money to give Filipino athletes a chance to excel. Lafferty was behind Marestella Torresincredible qualification to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Petrov is being chastised for retracting a previous statement that he had not been paid his salaries. The Ukrainian is a legend in his own time and the attack on his character will surely impact on PATAFAs reputation in World Athletics. Finally, the accusation of Obienas mother, who used to be a PATAFA auditor, is simply below the belt.

What has triggered this anger on Obiena? Is it a lesson to humble a spoiled brat? Is it because Obiena isnt able to accept overseas phone calls from PATAFA at three in the morning? Is it because Obiena turns to Lafferty in order to pay his coaches when PATAFA releases funds late? Is it because Obiena asks Petrov to sign receipts of salary even without payment as thats what he was instructed to do so he can turn in receipts for reimbursement? Is it because in Obienas liquidation reports, he included receipts to buy briefs? Is it because he reportedly yells at PATAFA staff for not making good on promises to deliver payments or equipment on time? Is it because Obiena consults a US-based Filipina sports psychologist who isnt endorsed by PATAFA but does wonders for the athlete? Surely, these are questions that are easily resolved by Christian men of good faith. This mess is an embarrassment to Philippine sports.



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