TOKYO Olympian Ernest John “EJ” Obiena threatened to retire in the middle of his peaking world-class pole vault career if his own national federation doesn’t retract the result of its investigation that he didn’t pay his similarly world-class and legendary Ukranian coach his salaries.
“The only resolution to this now is a full public withdrawal of the investigation or I’ll consider my other option—an immediate retirement from the sport that I love representing the Philippines,” Obiena told an online press conference where he was joined by his renowned coach, Vitaly Petrov, on Sunday evening.
“I just cannot train with this,” Obiena told the well-attended press conference from Rome, Italy.
Obiena resented the result of an investigation by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) that he didn’t pay Petrov his salaries totaling85,000 euros (P4.8 million). The salaries are for Petrov’s services for several months building up to the Tokyo Olympics last July.
“It’s really hard or even impossible for me to perform the way I should be performing with this kind of distraction hanging around with me,” added Obiena, who has made Italy, particularly the world pole vault center in Formia, as his base for the last four years.
Obiena added that he is willing to liquidate everything just to clear his name.
“I will ask for a third party to audit all my payments to coach Vitaly Petrov and I will publish all,” he said. “I have nothing to hide. The only thing I own in my life is my reputation.”
Petrov also spoke during the press conference and stressed his ward paid him his salaries that were provided by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Obiena said the false accusation is “a very disgusting abuse of power and a clear defamation of his character.”
A report stated that a PATAFA special committee recommended that Obiena falsified liquidation documents on Petrov’s salaries and that he be made to answer the accusation. Funding for his training has been stopped because of the committee’s recommendation.
PATAFA officials weren’t immediately available for comment.
Obiena is the current Asian record holder in men’s pole vault and is ranked No. 5 in the world.