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PATAFA drops Olympian EJ Obiena from national team, files estafa complaint

By AYIE LICSI Published Jan 04, 2022 6:46 pm

The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) announced on Jan. 4 that it will drop Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena from its national team.

The federation said it will also file a criminal complaint for estafa against Obiena following his alleged non-payment of coaching fees to Vitaly Petrov.

According to the statement, the young athlete "misappropriated" EUR 61,026.80 or P3,661,608 from the association. It claimed that Petrov was not paid as of August 2021.

The Olympian's mother, former PATAFA auditor Jeanette Obiena, was also accused of misappropriating an amount of P624,116.76, which was said to be a reimbursement of the coaching fee for Petrov for January to March 2019.

The allegations were first publicized by PATAFA in November after they claimed that the pole vault star "falsified his liquidations submitted" to the federation, accusing him of "embezzling" the P4.8 million worth of funds allocated for his mentor. Obiena immediately denied these accusations against him and called for a "full and public withdrawal of investigations" on Nov. 21.

Obiena has in the past admitted that he paid Petrov late and said that "paying late isn't a crime."

Cutting ties

PATAFA also said that it will "immediately terminate" its engagement with Petrov as a federation coach and will file a complaint against the Ukrainian for violating the Integrity Code of Conduct. They also declared the 26-year-old's adviser James Lafferty as persona non-grata.

On Dec. 28, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) also declared PATAFA president Philip Juico as persona non grata following the feud with the young pole vaulter.

Juico rejected this declaration and said that "the harassment [against Obiena] isn't there."

Obiena has yet to issue a statement about PATAFA's statement. On Dec. 24, he said that he has remained silent on the issue as he "cannot out-politics a politician." He also said that he will wait for the POC and IOC's processes to conclude.