Pole vault Olympian Ej Obiena said he is ready to face the charges leveled against him by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), even as he vowed that he will still continue to train and represent the country amid the controversy.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Jan. 4, the world’s sixth-ranked pole vaulter said that he is “saddened but not really surprised” by PATAFA’s most recent move. “I am relieved that I now finally know what I am being charged with,” he began, saying that it “had the look and feel of a witch hunt” from the very start.
“My legal team can now go about the business of clearing my name and my family’s name. Righteousness always wins in the end,” he continued. Obiena additionally said that he is prepared to face the cases filed against him “in any court or forum,” expressing his hope that he “will have my fair day in court and that I can finally end this baseless witch hunt.”
Obiena also addressed PATAFA’s plans to file another charge against his coach Vitaly Petrov in the World Athletics Federation about his alleged violation of the Integrity Code of Conduct.
“He is unperturbed by this. He is a good man and has treated me like his own son. I am sorry that he is being dragged into this,” he said. Petrov, in a statement, maintained that Obiena has fully paid him up to date and that he has “never proactively complained to anyone on EJ and payments, specifically never to PATAFA or to any Philippines Sports Official.”
The Olympian also reiterated his commitment to representing the country on the international stage. “I am always willing to compete for the flag and the country I love with my entire being,” he declared.
Obiena then thanked the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), which called PATAFA’s action a “vengeful act,” for their support. “The POC made a statement that I will still carry the flag of the Philippines and represent the country. I thank the POC for doing what is right for the nation and as the National Olympic Committee.”
Obiena said he will focus on his training for now. “My season will start in less than a month. The drama brought about by this witch hunt has taken valuable time, effort, and energy away from my training and preparation,” he said.
“I do not jump for Mr. Philip Ella Juico or the PATAFA. I jump for my beloved nation. Ako ay atletang Pilipino. Tumatalon ako para sa Pilipinas at sa lahat ng ating kababayan,” added Obiena.
In November, the PATAFA ordered Obiena to return 85,000 euros (around P4.8 million) due to his alleged falsification of documents that he submitted to the PH athletics body—an accusation that the athlete and his coach have consistently denied.
The POC Ethics Committee declared Juico as persona non grata on Dec. 28 amid the investigation, which found that Obiena was "harassed" by Juico with his "malicious public accusations." POC president Abraham Tolentino said, "We do not recognize him anymore as president of PATAFA until the new election of its president."
The PATAFA, for its part, rejected the move, saying that they "do not have jurisdiction over this matter."