Nigerians love to win and we love winners. If Nigeria is involved in any sport and is doing well, the entire nation stands still to celebrate. On such occasions, even the policemen on duty go partying, because the criminals they patrol to contain suspend their nefarious activities to jubilate as their athletes are win. This win-at-all-cost mentality permeates every fabric of our national life. it is the mind-set of winning at all cost that will ginger an internally displaced politician (IDP), who has lost relevance and contact with his people, to rig an election, so as to be declared winner. In so doing, he/she would have done unpardonable and abominable things just to win. Thereafter, he becomes a liability to the people and a disgrace to his office, seeing as, ab initio, that he has nothing to offer rather than the urge to win. Pardon me for digressing.
I am concerned about winning at competitions in the sporting sector. Recently, we have not had it so good: our performance at sporting events have been pathetic. From the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the ouster of Nigeria from all major age-grade, senior and continental club tourneys, it has all become quite worrisome.
The pressures is mounting. The officials and the administrators are tired of giving excuses for failure to win. The athletes too need the medals and laurels to become celebrities. The entire populace, that is, the supporters, are saddened by this downward slide. The government too needs these occasional victories to act as positive distractions from their non-performance. It is situations like these that push a person or the system to doing the unethical, in order to meet up. That is why a non-fancied politician goes to any length to bend the rules, corrupt the process and hire arms and thugs just to win.
The over-heat in our sport polity is reaching a crescendo, where nothing short of winning at competitions can placate both the athletes and supporters. These expectations have dangerous outcomes. The most common is the temptation to ‘rig’ victories by encouraging the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to spring unmerited victories. This may sound strange but true. Russia was conspicuously absent at Rio 2016, due to unsubstantiated doping scandals involving close to 400 athletes who were to represent the country. It was alleged that the Russian State sponsored the use of PEDs to boost their ranking in the games.
Doping affects all levels of athletics. It could also affect future generations who may be influenced by what top athletes do. It is important to protect the integrity of sport, the health of athletes and young people aspiring to engage in sports. It is an integral nature of sport itself that spectators and participants of all sports are confident that the competition is clean.
The establishment of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) in 1999, whose main slogan is “play true” is a great development. WADA’s main function is to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports. The governance structure of WADA has regional offices in all the continents. Countries all over the world are also mandated to open National Anti-doping Agencies (NADA). Leading sporting nations already have theirs, like USADA (United States Anti-doping Agency), UKADA, (United Kingdom Anti-doping Agency), AADA (Australia Anti-doping Agency), as well as African countries like South Africa, Egypt, Morroco etc.
My main concern is sport doping and Nigeria, seeing as we always pride ourselves as the ‘Giant of Africa’, but hesitate when others are advancing. It is hoped that this pressure of winning at all cost will not allow state-sponsored doping, where we will turn blind eyes to cheats in the name of winning competitions. It has worried me to no small measure why a nation like ours with potentials in sport failed to put the right structure in place to do the right things. It is improper to not have a national office to deal with doping issues. To assume that sport medicine directorate in the Ministry of Youth & Sport Development can delegate staff to handle doping matters is totally wrong and unacceptable. Anti-doping conventions and procedures, as handed down to NADAs, are expected to be executed independently and in accordance with WADA’s lists. The sport reforms being sought by the Minister of Youth & Sport Development will falter if a NADA office is not established. The Nigeria Anti-doping Agency must be established by an act of parliament and given the necessary independence to operate as canvassed by WADA. The dangers of allowing personnel of the Sport Medicine Directorate of the ministry to handle doping issues is like arrogating checks and balances to the same authority. Establishing the Nigeria Anti-doping Agency (NADA) is a plus, as the government will not spend a single kobo in running the agency – all funds to operate will come from the world body, WADA. The ministry would, as a matter of its intending reform of the sport sector, liaise with the National Assembly to pursue the passing of the bill for an Act to establish NADA 2016. Now, that’ll be progress.