EJ Obiena hits back at Patafa’s ‘shifting allegations’ from embezzlement to not paying on time
MANILA, Philippines—Pole vaulter EJ Obiena cried foul over the “shifting” allegations hurled at him by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa)..
Obiena has been accused by Patafa of falsifying liquidation documents. The Tokyo Olympian was also ordered to return 85,000 euros (over P4.8 million) in financial help intended for the salary of his Ukrainian coach Vitaliy Petrov.
Patafa also wants Obiena to prove that his coach was being paid on time his salaries dating back to May 2018.
In a statement released Tuesday, Obiena admitted to paying Petrov late which, according to the pole vaulter, “is not a crime.”
“I am personally shocked at the recent statement and shifting allegations of PATAFA. From their written letters of accusing me of embezzlement; to suddenly changing it to timing of payments? the statement read. “PATAFA accused me, in writing, of committing serious crimes of embezzlement and outright “theft” of monies intended for my coach, Vitaliy Petrov.”
“After Vitaliy himself appeared live in the press conference on November 20, refuting these allegations, now they suddenly change the written accusations. Instead of admitting they were wrong, they now change the subject: Now the issue is, apparently, I perhaps did not pay Petrov ‘on time,’” Obiena said. “That’s a long way from embezzlement and theft that they accused me of. I am not a lawyer, but as far as I know, paying late isn’t a crime. I have already admitted I am a pole vaulter—not an accountant.”
Obiena, who has been holed up in Fornia, Italy where he’s training excessively for the last several years, said his rigorous training made it difficult for him to manage the extra load of handling the administrative work that includes taking care of Petrov’s salary.
“I have admitted I struggle with the huge amount of paperwork I am required to do to be a paymaster to my team. I am alone in Italy, I train 9 hours daily, and I have no help. no other athlete here in the Olympic Training Center carries my burden or administration,” he said. “I have repeatedly asked PATAFA to pay my coaches directly and to stop requiring me to disperse all funds. First the extra work I need to do, other than competing for the country, and not to mention the fees I need to shoulder for these transfers. Somehow it was refused.”
“Have I ever paid Vitaliy Petrov late? YES, I HAVE. I just sometimes cannot manage the workload and the training and get everything done to PATAFA’s satisfaction,” he added. “They could help me by simply paying people directly—but they refuse this very simple solution for some reason; and now they accuse me of wrongdoing when I never wanted the job of paymaster to begin with!”
The 26-year-old Obiena also made it clear that “I never took a single centavo of money from my coach. Not even the fees for transfer or exchange rates were deducted to his salary. I paid those out of pocket.”
Obiena stressed on clearing his name following the grave accusations even if it means taking the matter to court.
The second-generation athlete, though, remains open to coming to terms with Patafa despite the ugly mess although, it appears that a reconciliation is unlikely at this point.
“I am willing to make peace on this case but I must have my good name cleared. I do not hold out much hope. It is clear I am not wanted by my federation in any shape or form. I am attacked without any due process and now narrative and accusations have somehow changed,” he said. “I am cut from funding and left figuring it out somehow here in Italy. I am destroyed mentally and reputationally. And the attacks keep coming. Clearly, I am not wanted.”
“I am human like anyone else, These situations can destroy people and their motivation. Who would not be severely impacted by this situation? I will complete the PWC Audit, and I will finalize my legal recurse avenues,” added the world No. 5 pole vaulter. “Just say the word, and I will formally retire from Philippines Athletics and being any part of PATAFA. Clearly, they or he don’t want me in the program based on their actions now and before. There can be no other objective to all these attacks. Let’s just say it and we all move on.”
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