EJ Obiena Never Tested Positive; To Take Polygraph Test Amid Doping Accusation – Mentor
“They can test EJ (Obiena) at any time unannounced,” mentor Jim Lafferty said. “He has never had a positive test and never even been sanctioned for missing a test.”
Dubai-based American CEO and athletics benefactor James Michael “Jim” Lafferty said on Tuesday, Oct. 17, world No. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena never tested positive in any drug test and doesn’t need a performance-enhancing-substance to win.
Lafferty, who is Obiena’s mentor and coach, lashed out at Anais Poumarat’s malicious and unsubstantiated rant where she accused the pole vaulter of doping in a recent Facebook comment.
Poumarat is married to Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic pole vault gold medalist who at 37, has slipped in the world standings from a high of No. 2 to No. 43. Since last May, Lavillenie participated in only eight competitions with a single podium finish, third place for a season-high 5.61 compared to his indoor personal best of 6.16 and outdoor personal best of 6.06.
In a shared post by Vaulter Magazine-Vaulter Club Inc. last Oct. 12, Poumarat made the comment after the outlet asked whether Obiena can beat World No. 1 Armand Duplantis in the 2024 Olympics.
Poumarat said, “(Obiena) doped and it’ll fall like Braz, same coach, same plan, same objective.”
Obiena posted a screenshot of the comment on his verified public Facebook account on Sunday night, Oct. 15.
“I want to remain classy and dignified on this subject,” Obiena said in response to the comment. “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,” Obiena added. “I guess this is part of the price you pay when you win.”
Obiena and Brazil’s 2016 Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz are trained by Ukrainian Vitaliy Petrov. Braz tested positive for ostarine, a banned substance, and was suspended last July.
Lafferty said Obiena is randomly tested by the Athletics Integrity Unit and provides his location in advance on an online portal. “They can test EJ at any time unannounced,” he said. “EJ has been tested as often as three to four times in a particular week. He has never had a positive test and never even been sanctioned for missing a test. I know EJ, I know him inside and out, I know his character. He has never touched a performance-enhancing drug and never even considered it.”
Lafferty told “Sports Desk” on CNN Philippines on Monday, Oct. 16, that Obiena will also undergo a polygraph test this week to dispute accusations of doping.
The test will be done this week during Obiena’s stay in Dubai, and will be performed by a “certified polygrapher.”
“He’s gonna do a polygraph, and we’re gonna release it as information just to bolster the case, that’s how confident we are. I know him, we’ve had private talks, he’s never even thought about it, let alone be close to it (doping),” Lafferty said.
Lafferty bared is Obiena being cautious because he worries about his food or drink being spiked with drugs. Obiena’s mentor added that heading into the 2024 Olympics, they have already discussed refusing food from strangers, or unknown origins.
“On Sports Desk,” Lafferty said he could “understand there’s a frustration, I understand there might be suspicion” because of what happened to Braz, “but to link guilt by association, and say they used to train together, and now because they train together, they’re obviously both doping… it’s awful.”
Lafferty noted Braz is yet to be convicted pending a B-sample analysis.
Earlier, Lafferty stressed Braz has not trained under Petrov since mid-2022, meaning he was not with Obiena by the time of the positive result. He also attested to Obiena’s character, calling him a “great athlete” but an “even better human being.”
“And it breaks my heart to see someone slander his (Obiena’s) name so recklessly, so irresponsibly without any information because of ill will going back to the 2016 Olympics and what happened in Brazil and you know? All kinds of things,” Lafferty said.
Lafferty disclosed that Obiena is “incredibly upset” because of how the incident can harm his reputation. He said Poumarat’s claims led netizens to wonder whether the pole vaulter was caught in a doping incident.
Obiena’s mentor shared they would be meeting with French lawyers and consider all actions including legal because it is a “pretty clear cut case of libel and slander.”
“It’s not something we take lightly, it’s unfortunate, and I think…the fact that it came from a competitor, in the circuit, it shocked him incredibly, that it would come like that,” Lafferty said.
It’s “libel case gift-wrapped,” he noted, adding: “we are retaining counsel and exploring our options.”
But Lafferty said Obiena’s camp still needs to understand France’s legal framework through their meeting with the French lawyers.
He stressed they would not contact the Lavillenie camp. Recalling Obiena’s dispute with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), Lafferty said Poumarat’s accusations was “the biggest mistake they’ve ever made.”
Lafferty continued that Obiena once channeled his anger toward PATAFA into his craft, which allowed him to defend his gold medal at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and win a historic bronze medal at the World Athletic Championships in 2022.
In both competitions, Obiena also set pole vault records. In the SEA Games, he set a competition record of 5.46 meters, and reset the Asian records with a 5.94 meter personal best at the World Athletics Championships.
“We were at the gym (on Monday) morning, he landed and came to my house at 1 a.m. (Dubai time). At 7 a.m., we were already at the gym training,” Lafferty said. “He is focused, and angry, and this is the biggest mistake they (Lavillenie) could have ever done, because he’s not distracted. He’s now out to do his absolute best at the Paris Olympics.”
Bong Go: Substantiate your claims
In a statement on Tuesday, Oct. 17, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go dared Poumarat to substantiate her accusations. Go, who chairs the Senate committee on sports, said they take her accusations against “national sports hero” Obiena very seriously.
Go added that Obiena has already made huge contributions not just to Philippine sports, but to the world. As a professional world-class athlete, Go said Obiena is expected to abide by world sports standards.
“I, therefore, urge the one who makes such claim to substantiate it and not resort to ruining someone's reputation on social media,” Go said.
“If there is a need for any national athlete to undergo necessary and official tests from the anti-doping body, there is a process for this which I am sure any elite national team is aware of,” he reiterated.
The senator added such baseless accusations should not be tolerated, and professionalism is a part of sportsmanship.
“Nanalo lang, pinagbintangan na agad. Baka inggit lang siguro. Walang gamot sa inggit (He is now accused of doping just because he won. Maybe they are just envious, and there is no cure for that),” Go said.
Lafferty lamented it’s a sad case of a bitter former champion who is grappling with aging and losing. “I don’t think he has ever congratulated EJ,” he added. “This is all about jealousy and he can’t handle how EJ beats him so he makes these accusations. He has always treated EJ like a second-class citizen. Could be French insecurity in the face of Filipino greatness.”