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Obiena’s coach calls PATAFA probe ‘a focused mission to try and find fault with EJ'

By Brooke Villanueva Published Dec 02, 2021 11:24 am Updated Dec 02, 2021 1:54 pm

EJ Obiena’s pole vault coach Vitaly Petrov maintained that the Olympian has fully paid him up to date and that he has “never proactively complained to anyone on EJ and payments, specifically never to PATAFA (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) or to any Philippines Sports Official.” 

In an official statement, he clarified that there were times that Obiena’s payments came in late, but the athlete explained to him “that this is caused primarily by PATAFA sending his allowance and my payments months-late. I know that the money is late because of PATAFA’s inefficiency.”

Further explaining the issue, Petrov said he was directly approached by PATAFA President Philip Ella Juico “and heavily questioned, alongside my former athlete Sergey Bubka, in a manner which confused me and I felt pressured to answer in the way that they wanted me to answer.” 

“I now understand this was a focused mission to try and find fault with EJ,” he said, adding that the questionnaire he signed made him understand that it would help smooth the payment process and let the athlete focus on his training better instead of juggling his sport with another “unnecessary role of managing my payments.” 

“I was tricked,” declared Petrov. 

“I never could have imagined it would be used in the way it is used now as a weapon to destroy a promising career,” he said, stressing that such discussions or documents were initiated “wholly” by Juico.

For his part, Juico denied the claim that he pressured Petrov to give him the answers he wanted to hear. "Petrov knows the truth. He knows and appreciated my help and even encouraged me to report his and Sergey Bubka’s statements to the PATAFA board to help recover his unpaid fees. I promised him and Sergey I would help recover the missing fees because, as Sergey Bubka said, it was embarrassing to the Philippines," he said in a statement sent to the press.

"All these will come to pass. Loyalty to country is best expressed, not by mere flag-waving alone, but by putting the country’s interest first in all respects and being accountable for its resources–financial, natural, territorial," he later added.

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 Philippine athletics body. Obiena firmly denied the accusation in a Facebook post. “All I can say, with documented evidence, is these rumours are 100% false and represent nothing more than character assassination,” he wrote.

The Philippine Sports Commission said that they have “quietly started a series of separate dialogues with each of the concerned parties, with the quick and just resolution of the issue in mind.”

“The PSC will be issuing an update once a positive outcome of the dialogue and settlement of these issues between the parties involved are reached,” it added.