Filipino pole vault Olympian EJ Obiena has lamented the current system inside the National Sports Association (NSA) that left him being questioned over the management of his funds as a national athlete.
Obiena on Tuesday, Dec. 4, called on lawmakers during a House Committee on Youth and Sports Development hearing to “examine the system” as well as “help” them “because what is happening to [him] now is not the first nor will it be the last.”
“I will ask you (congressmen) to help to examine the system and enact appropriate laws that will clean up the way the NSA is run. I pray that their finances be managed and dispersed more efficiently and more effectively,” he said.
“They should be the one handling treasury functions and not delegate it to any of the athletes,” he added.
Obiena made the call following a row with his mother organization, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), which arose after the latter supposedly accused him of not paying his Ukrainian coach and improperly liquidating his funds.
During the hearing, Obiena maintained that his coach, Vitaliy Petrov, was sufficiently paid. It was supported by Petrov’s signed statement, which also stated that the Olympian paid him even more although there were times the payment was not on time.
On the other hand, Obiena’s mentor, Jim Lafferty, defended the Olympian amid the “accusations” made by PATAFA. He also shared the pole vaulter’s sentiment by saying that NSA’s system is “broken” when it lets its athletes front their own money for their athletic expenses and demand them to thoroughly liquidate their finances despite their busy schedule and continuous training.
He said the House Committee “can fix most” of the problems, which PATAFA and the Philippine Sports Commission just inherited from their previous leaders.
“The system is broken on how liquidation is done,” Lafferty said.
“I sit here today with the great deal of sadness because I’m being forced to pick side on this… It also pains me that I have to sit on the side of EJ on this point for a very simple reason… He’s a better human being,” he added.
“It just breaks my heart to see how his name has been trashed… The kid is ruined from reputation standpoint.”