By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) rejected Olympian EJ Obiena’s claim of “character assassination,” stressing the investigation conducted by the Board was internal and not for public consumption.
In a statement, Patafa said it only acted on a testimony signed by Obiena’s Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov, who informed the association that he did not receive payments for his services to Obiena.
A signed affidavit of pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, president of the Ukraine Olympic Committee and senior vice president of world athletics, backed Petrov’s earlier claim.
Patafa, headed by Philip “Popoy” Juico also said records revealed that Obiena, 26, had settled obligations with Petrov only this month, and not during the months that he had officially reported to have paid his coach’s salary.
The association is bent on asking Obiena if he had paid Petrov on time. In various liquidation reports Obiena submitted to the association, he claimed he had turned over Petrov’s salary from May 2018 to August 2021 on time.
Patafa said the discrepancy in Obiena’s reports and the documents from Petrov and Bubka inquiring about the coach’s salary have prompted the association to investigate the matter.
Upon initial investigation, the track body demanded Obiena to return the 85,000 euro (around P4.8 million) worth of coaching fees.
In Sunday’s online press briefing, Obiena denied such signed affidavits from several people including Petrov exist. However, alleged copies of the affidavit from Bubka started leaking on social media platforms.
Obiena said the issue has tarnished his reputation and affected his training in Formia, Italy.
The Tokyo Olympian who is ranked No. 5 in the world has demanded full apology from Patafa and the withdrawal of the investigation.
If the probe continues, Obiena, who finished 11th in the Tokyo Games, warned he would retire from the sport he loves the most.