'Communication problem' led to bodybuilders' DQ, says POC chief

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2022 11:43 AM | Updated as of May 17 2022 11:54 AM

The Philippine bodybuilding team. Photo from the IFBB Philippines Facebook page
The Philippine bodybuilding team. Photo from the IFBB Philippines Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines -- A failure of communication dating back to last December led to the disqualification of Filipino bodybuilders from the 31st Southeast Asian Games, according to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino.

The Philippines sent a team of eight men and one woman to the biennial event in Hanoi, Vietnam, but they were barred from competing for failing to fulfill anti-doping rules. An official said the Philippines had not provided sufficient evidence that the athletes had done doping tests three weeks in advance.

According to a report from Agence France-Presse, the Filipino bodybuilders did not provide a doping certificate, a requirement made clear in the technical handbook. 

Speaking on ANC's "Rundown" from Hanoi on Tuesday morning, Tolentino revealed that the technical handbooks were distributed last December 8, but the bodybuilders did not receive a copy nor did the POC.

"Dapat 'yan December 8, alam na. Alam na 'yung requirements na 'yun," he said.

"Ang laki ng time kasi December 8, lahat 'yung technical handbook, pinamimigay na 'yun eh. So dapat, noong hindi nakita 'yung technical handbook ng bodybuilding, nag-alert na agad na wala pa kaming natatanggap na technical handbook," he added.

Tolentino admitted that he was personally unaware of the issue, only learning of the matter when he arrived in Hanoi on May 11, a day before the formal opening of the SEA Games. However, he pointed out that other Filipino sports officials -- including chef de mission Ramon Fernandez -- have been in Vietnam since May 1.

"Dapat doon, nakita pa rin na ayun. So hindi na darating sa mga appeal," he said.

"Ang CDM, ang chef-de-mission dumating, May 1. Abot pa 'yun, kung nalaman niya agad," Tolentino pointed out. "And, I'm not blaming kung kaninong fault. Is it the fault of the owner of the ship or the captain of the ship?"

"So doon makikita natin 'yung kaunting… Not kaunti, it's a problem of communication, 'di ba. So my only fault is I'm the one who appointed the captain of the ship," he added.

POC President Abraham 'Bambol' Tolentino. File photo.
POC President Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino. File photo.

Aside from failing to provide a doping certificate, the Filipino bodybuilders were also not affiliated with the Asian Bodybuilding Federation -- another requirement by the SEAG Bodybuilding Technical Committee.

Tolentino said he was also not immediately aware that the Filipino bodybuilders are not accredited with their international federation, although he believed this to be a "minor" issue. The POC can endorse the bodybuilders to the local organizing committee, which is what they did for the Filipino tennis players while their national sports association (NSA) is under suspension.

The POC chief further revealed that he was successful in appealing for the bodybuilders' inclusion in the SEA Games, citing the "friendship, camaraderie, and unity" of Southeast Asian countries. Ultimately, however, the technical committee in bodybuilding decided against letting the Filipinos compete. 

"The problem is the rules. Hindi pumayag 'yung technical delegates, because of that. But I don't know if there's still politics on it," he said. 

The Philippines missed out on perhaps three medals with the bodybuilders' exclusion from the SEA Games, said Tolentino.

"Hindi naman papayag ang host na malamangan natin sila sa ganitong event. So minimum, max three, nawala sa atin. Max three," he said.

Bodybuilding is still in the SEA Games program for 2023 in Cambodia, and the Filipino athletes said they are already looking forward to redeeming themselves there. Tolentino added that they will also work on fixing their standing with their international federation, among other issues.

"We have to move on. Kailangan ma-correct namin 'yung mga mistakes. We have to be transparent, [have] open communication," said Tolentino. "Sayang, ano. Ngayon lang uli nabuhay 'yung bodybuilding competition, and there will be next year, in Cambodia."

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