In the world of pole vaulting, EJ Obiena stands on the precipice of greatness.
With his eyes set on the 2024 Paris Olympics and a chance to challenge the legendary Mondo Duplantis, Obiena’s journey recently took an unexpected turn, as a seemingly innocuous social media post led to accusations of doping.
It all began when the Facebook page “Vaulter Magazine – Vaulter Club Inc.” shared an article from the Manila Times. There, Obiena spoke of his aspirations to conquer the world record held by Sweden’s Duplantis.
Amid the enthusiastic comments, one stood out – a comment from the profile of Anais Lavillenie, the wife of former world record holder Renaud.
“Obiena doped and it’ll fall like Braz. Same coach, Same plan, same objective!” the comment read.
While it didn’t directly accuse Obiena of doping, it ignited a firestorm of controversy.
Obiena, unfazed by the comment, shared a screenshot on his verified Facebook account, voicing his disappointment and feelings of being wronged.
“I want to remain classy and dignified on this subject,” Obiena declared.
“All I will say is I am disappointed, angry, and feel wronged by these statements. I will let the story evolve while my team explores the many angles, including legal. I guess this is part of the price you pay when you win.”
Obiena’s ascent in the pole vaulting world has been nothing short of remarkable.
Currently ranked second globally, he achieved membership in the exclusive “six-meter club” earlier this year, clearing the bar in a competition in Norway.
He has notched numerous gold medals in prestigious events such as the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Championships, and Asian Games, while standing as the runner-up to Duplantis in the World Championships and the Diamond League.
What adds a twist to the story is the mention of “Braz” in the controversial comment – referring to Thiago Braz, the Brazilian pole vaulter and Obiena’s training partner.
Both athletes are mentored by the renowned Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov, hinting at the “same coach” in the comment.
In July 2023, Braz faced a suspension for testing positive for ostarine, a substance linked to increased physical stamina and fitness, which could lead to a four-year ban.
Obiena’s defense was swiftly supported by his personal advisor, Jim Lafferty, who emphasized his client’s integrity.
“EJ is a winner. A 100% clean winner,” Lafferty proclaimed.
According to a report by the Business Mirror, Lafferty highlighted that Obiena has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and regularly undergoes stringent anti-doping procedures.
They are even considering legal action regarding the comments that gained traction on the Facebook page with over 93,000 followers.