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EJ Obiena calls PATAFA's liquidation allegations 'fraud', threatens 'immediate retirement'

EJ Obiena is demanding an apology from PATAFA or else, he might retire sooner than expected. Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Some tension is now brewing between the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association and EJ Obiena.

Obiena vehemently denied PATAFA's allegations that he falsified the liquidation for the salary of his coach Vitaly Petrov.

On the day when initial reports surfaced that PATAFA is asking Asia's top pole vaulter right now to return 85,000 euros (about PHP4.8 million) due to the alleged non-payment of his coach, Obiena called such accusations "fraud", even denying that Petrov has submitted an affidavit that would back up PATAFA's allegations on him.

"These letters from the so-called 'investigating committee' of PATAFA assert they have signed affidavits from several people including Mr. Petrov. I would encourage the press to shine a light on this. No such letter exists. This is a fraud, pure and simple," Obiena said in an online press conference on Sunday night.

Petrov was actually beside Obiena during the press briefing as the latter is continuing his training in Formia, Italy ahead of next year's events.

That is assuming Obiena would still want to play.

The 26-year-old University of Santo Tomas alumnus threatened that he would retire very soon and just return to school if he and PATAFA fail to settle this issue or at least PATAFA issues a public apology.

"The only resolution to this situation now is a full and public withdrawal of the investigation and a full public apology from the authorities involved in this. If this does not happen, I will consider my other options, being an immediate retirement from the sport in the Philippines and a return to school, as much as I believe there is more for me to achieve," Obiena further said.

Although he admitted that "some of my liquidation paperwork was submitted late and sometimes are in sloppy fashion," Obiena believes that what PATAFA did is "a disgusting abuse of power and itself a criminal activity called slander and defamation of character."

"I welcome a full and open accounting. I have nothing to hide. I am an open book," he added.

Obiena then bared that he has begun taking legal action regarding his row with PATAFA.

"This entire incident has damaged my reputation and is now forever a part of my history. It is all false, and I welcome any court of law to shed light under the power of evidence to investigate this matter. I have also filed formal complaints with the POC, IOC, and World Athletics. As we are now talking slander and defamation of character, I have retained legal counsel and I do intend to pursue this vigorously," Obiena said.

Meanwhile, Petrov confirmed that he was paid the aforementioned amount for his salary.

"I have been fully paid this sum by EJ both directly and indirectly. I confirm this. I have no problem with EJ Obiena," Petrov said.

That is why he was saddened when PATAFA suddenly made its demands to Obiena known.

"This situation is destroying this young man and ruining his chances to success now and in the future. I worked with many countries and sports federations. I must say I do not understand what this federation is doing and what good comes out of destroying a fine young man. It is the opposite and sets the Philippine track and field program back, and this is a shame," Petrov concluded.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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