Ten Nigerian athletes last Wednesday were declared ineligible to compete in the ongoing 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games. The decision was taken by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU). This is an independent body that manages integrity issues, including doping. Besides Nigerian athletes, eight from other countries have been asked to withdraw. Two were replaced before their names were submitted to the World Athletics.
AIU explained that the affected athletes who represented some ‘Category A’ Federations were disqualified from the final entries for the Olympics for failing to meet the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules. A part of the AIU statement read: “Under the framework of Rule 15 governing National Federation Anti-Doping Obligations, which came into force in January 2019, National Federations are accountable for ensuring appropriate anti-doping measures are in place in their respective jurisdictions.
“Among other things, the Rule sets out minimum requirements for testing on the national teams of ‘Category A’ federations deemed to have the highest doping risk and considered as a threat to the overall integrity of the sport. The key requirement in Rule 15 is that an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. Only then do they become eligible to represent their national teams at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.”
AIU listed the seven identified ‘Category A’ National Federations as Belarus, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Ukraine. It noted that ahead of the games, the ‘Category A’ Federations, working with their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs), made significant progress with respect to their domestic testing programmes. Nigeria was listed in ‘Category A’ at the start of 2020 after a continued period of weak domestic testing levels.
The expulsion of the 10 Nigerian athletes sparked a protest by the affected sport men and women in the games village. They are Blessing Okagbare Ighoteguonor, suspended for failing doping test, Divine Oduduru, disqualified for the 100m heat for a false start, and other athletes barred from competing including Ruth Usoro, Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Annette Echikunwoke, Chioma Onyekwere, Knowledge Omovoh, Chidi Okezie, Glory Patrick, Tima Seikeseye Godbless and Yinka Ajayi.
Before then the Team Nigeria had been scandalized by non-delivery of its official kits. The athletes and officials were in personal clothing during the Games’ opening ceremony. Another big scandal was the reported confiscation of Samsung smart phones donated to athletes by officials of the sports ministry.
What a national disgrace! Worse, this happened before the very eyes of the whole world. We understand that sport minister Sunday Dare had intervened to “bring the situation under control”. Whatever he did has not been revealed. One fact is clear: Nigeria has been shamed globally. This disgrace cannot be brought “under control”. Those responsible for this disaster must go.