POC vows to bring EJ Obiena to SEA Games, Asiad

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has reiterated its support for Asian pole vault sensation EJ Obiena after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) dropped him from the national pool.

POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said on Tuesday they will assure Obiena’s participation in major events this year especially the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games with or without PATAFA’s nod.

“We in the POC will make sure EJ will be in Hanoi and Huangzhou and in all other major world competitions, we’ll fight for EJ,” Tolentino said in a statement.

He cited a clause in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter saying that a National Olympic Committee (NOC) can endorse an athlete on its own.

“There’s a provision in the IOC Charter allowing NOCs to endorse athlete/s. In the absence of an endorsement from a national federation, the organizer/host owns a prerogative to allow embattled athlete/s,” Tolentino said, citing the refugee athletes competing in the Olympics as an example.

He said the PATAFA’s decision to remove Obiena from the national team was a just “vengeful act”.

“I expected EJ will be dropped from the national team by his NSA (national sports association) as a vengeful act. The action of Mr. [Philip Ella] Juico in removing EJ Obiena from the national pool is an expected result of his expose, a vengeful act that shuts down the chances of the Philippines from its Olympic dream,” Tolentino said.

Obiena’s removal from the national team was a recommendation made following an investigation to allegations of unpaid coaching fees to Vitaly Petrov.

PATAFA is also readying estafa charges against Obiena, while a complaint will be made to World Athletics against Petrov.

Tolentino said the POC is ready “to act as the final caretaker of athletes when an oppressive NSA is apparently shutting its doors to world class athletes.”

Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker Eric Martinez called on everyone not to make quick judgments on Obiena amid his row with PATAFA.

“We should not jump to conclusions right away without a hint of due process involve in resolving this issue,” Martinez said.

He also lashed at PATAFA for its decision that could be detrimental to Obiena.

“We do not treat a world class Filipino athlete like that, he is the future of Philippine athletics,” Martinez said.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) said is now waiting for a word from the PATAFA for taking out Obiena from its national team.

“The inclusion and exclusion of athletes is a domain of national sports associations under Section 13 of RA 6847. However, any exclusion shall also be required an explanation from the concerned NSA considering the investment of government in developing someone into an elite athlete,” the PSC board said on Tuesday.

Tolentino believes it is the PSC’s final discretion on whether Obiena would be totally out of the Philippine team for both the SEA Games and the Asian Games this year or not.

“The ball is now with the PSC, will the PSC allow EJ to be stricken off from the national team (SEA Games and Asian Games year)? Will the government allow a world-class athlete to be out of the national team?” Tolentino said. “Being the Asian record holder, No. 6 in the world and No. 3 best performer in 2021, will the PSC allow one gold medal to be lost in Huangzhou long before the Asian Games?”

Obiena, currently the world number six pole vaulter, is expected to breeze through both the SEA Games in Hanoi and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China this year following a splendid 2021 that saw him set the new continental record for men’s pole vault.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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