Obiena blasts Philippine athletic body, mulls 'immediate retirement'

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines stands to lose pole vaulter EJ Obiena to retirement amid a legal row with the Philippines Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa).

This as the sports federation tarnished its relationship with the Olympian following accusations that Obiena and his coach falsified the liquidation of allocated funds and prompting an investigation on the matter.

"The only resolution to this now is a full and public withdrawal of investigation and a full public from the authorities involved in this," Obiena told the media in a press conference Sunday.

"If 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," he said.

According to reports that surfaced Sunday afternoon, Patafa is ordering Obiena to return some 85,000 euros (over P4.8 million) as he allegedly "falsified the liquidations submitted" and did not pay the money from Patafa intended for his coach Vitaly Petrov.

Obiena said that while it is indeed true that such orders from Patafa were given, there is no merit to the allegations.

"I have proof of my due payment to Mr. Petrov being paid before any of this, I have signed documents from Mr. Petrov that he has sent to Patafa asserting this fact," he said.

Though maintaining that there is no theft or embezzlement between he and Petrov, who was also with Obiena during the press conference, the pole vaulter has employed a third party to look into the issue and prove that Patafa's claims are indeed false.

"I have engaged an independent third party to audit... To audit the entire questions of payments made to me, the disbursements. I will publish this audit in the public domain for all to see. It will show that every single centavo is accounted [for]," he said.

"I welcome a bright light shining on this situation because I have nothing to hide," he added.


'Disgusting abuse of power'

The 26-year-old did not mince his words at Patafa as the issue unfolded, saying that the accusations from his federation has done much damage to his reputation as a person.

"It's a disgusting abuse of power... It is itself a criminal activity called slander and defamation of character," he said.

"The entire incident has damaged my reputation and is now forever a part of my history," he added.

With all that in mind, Obiena is pulling out legal remedies as well to iron out the situation against the sports federation.

"I have also filed formal complaints with the POC, IOC, and the World Athletics," said Obiena.

"I do intend to pursue this vigorously,"

Obiena has also said that he was not amiss in communicating with Patafa, but did not receive the same treatment from the sports body.

"Nobody asked me any questions, nobody asked for clarity or supporting documentation. They just levelled the charges against me, this runs counter to any principle of justice from what I believe: innocent until proven guilty," he said.

"My own federation comes out at me with pure regression, no benefit of any doubt, and with intent to destroy my reputation," he added.

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