As Track and Field events get set to commence at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Integrity unit of World Athletics (AIU) has cleared 12 Nigerian athletes as eligible to participate fully at the Games.
Reigning Nigeria sprint queen and 100m/200m record holder, Blessing Okagbare, tops the list of 12 athletes the Athletics Integrity Unit has cleared to compete in the athletics event of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics which begins on Friday.
Okagbare who is making her fourth appearance at the Games and won a Silver medal in the Long Jump at Beijing 2008 will be competing in the women’s 100m heat on Friday.
Also cleared to contest are sprint hurdler, Tobiloba Amusan who is ranked No.4 in the 100m Hurdles; Long jumper Ese Brume who tops the world list in her event coming to the games and Grace Nwokocha, the home-based sensation who clocked 11.09s in March at the MoC Grand Prix in Lagos to seal her qualification for the Tokyo Games.
Others are the trio of Divine Oduduru, Enoch Adegoke and Ushoritse Itshekiri who will be competing in the men’s 100m while Oduduru will also race in the 200m, an event he holds the National Record of 19.73s which he set two years ago in Austin, Texas in the USA to win the NCAA GOLD.
Shot putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi who made it to the event’s final at the World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, in 2019, is also cleared to compete.
The 4x400m mixed relay quartet of Imaobong Nse Uko, Patience Okon-George, Nataniel Samson and Ifeanyi Ojeli are also cleared to compete and will be in action on Friday in the first semifinal heat.
According to a press release from AIU dated July 28th, 10 Nigerian athletes were declared ineligible to compete at the Tokyo Olympics after not meeting the minimum requirements of Out of Competition Tests (OCTs) in the build up to the Tokyo Olympics.
Nigeria was added to the list of ‘Category A’ federations around the first quarter of 2020 by AIU. Category A federations are considered the highest doping risk to Athletics under the World Athletics Anti-Doping rules and athletes from these countries are required to undergo at least three no-notice OCTs conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event.
Incidentally, the crisis in Athletics started around December 2019 when Ibrahim Gusau was suspended by the then AFN board. He went on to counter-suspend members of the board and the crisis and power tussle has continued until now.
While Nigeria’s Athletics A Team largely remains intact in spite of AIU’s decision, it is unfortunate that most of the athletes declared ineligible and have been knocked out of the Olympics are athletes within the college system and have been competing regularly within the NCAA circuit. In fact none of them was cleared to compete!
The only athletes from the US who were cleared to compete for Nigeria were the top professionals and medal hopefuls who already have strong management teams around them.
It’s worth noting though that OCTs have been ongoing in Nigeria, which is why the bulk of the Nigerian-based athletes were cleared to compete at the ongoing Olympics, including Patience Okon-George, Imaobong Uko, Enoch Adegoke, Usheoritse Itsekiri, Grace Nwokocha, Emmanuel Ojeli and Samson Nathaniel.
Reacting to AIU’s decision, MoC Founder/CEO Bambo Akani said: “It’s actually quite surprising that it is mostly the US-based Athletes who did not have the requisite number of OCTs, while nearly all the home-based Athletes on Nigeria’s team were cleared to compete – it actually shows that Out of Competition testing is happening in Nigeria as it should, while there has been a breakdown in the correct process that should be happening with Nigeria’s Athletes in the US.
“It is possible that some of them were not aware of or not filling their whereabouts forms so that the testers would know where to find them out of competition on any given day. I feel for the current US Collegiate Athletes who may be more inexperienced in such matters, and this is where it is Nigeria’s failure not to have frequently checked in with all of our Olympic hopefuls to ensure that they were getting their OCTs done. I hope this will be a teachable moment for our nation and hopefully the new AFN board will mark the change in professionalism that is needed to ensure that such can never happen to Nigeria’s Olympic Athletes again.”
Athletics accounts for 13 of the 25 medals won by the country at the games and two of the three GOLD medals Nigeria has won at the Olympic Games.