After the rumbling over the disqualification of 10 Nigerian athletes from partaking in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan due to their failure to undertake the mandatory three out-of-competition tests expected of athletes taking part in a competition this magnitude and the protest by the athletes over their training grant, peace has finally returned to Team Nigeria’s camp in Tokyo.
Team captain Aruna Quadri said the intervention of the minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, has doused the tension in the camp and the athletes are now relaxed.
“I had a fruitful meeting with the minister based on my position as the general team captain to resolve the issues surrounding the training grant of Nigerian athletes based overseas.
“The meeting allayed our fears and was very reassuring. The athletes are now relaxed with the action taken by the minister,” Aruna stated in a short message posted on his social media handle.
It was reported that fewer than 10 Nigerian athletics’ athletes took to the streets of the Japanese capital in protest after they were disqualified from competing at the the start of the track and fields event yesterday.
Team Nigeria’s chances of winning medals at the Olympic suffered a huge setback at the Games after the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent body created by World Athletics that manages all integrity issues – both doping and non-doping – announced on Wednesday that 10 Nigerian athletes out of 23 were ineligible to compete at the ongoing Tokyo Games.They are among 18 athletes that have been declared ineligible, with Nigeria accounting for over 55% of the number.
Nigeria was placed in Category A at the start of 2020 following a continued period of weak domestic testing levels.
The AIU explained that 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 for 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 team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) was wracked in a leadership crisis for over 14 months, and this may have been part of the negative outcomes.
The ineligible athletes are African record holder (Women’s Discus) Chioma Onyekwere, Youth Olympics champion Rosemary Chukwuma, African record holder in triple jump (Indoor) Ruth Usoro, African record holder in women’s 200m (Indoor)/ African Games silver medalist Favour Ofili, African record holder in women’s hammer throw Annette Echikunwoke, African Games bronze medalist in Men’s 4× 400m relay Chidi Okezie, Knowledge Omovoh, Glory Patrick, Yinka Ajayi, and Tima Godbless.
Many of the athletes – including those who were not disqualified took to the social media to express their disappointment.
According to Blessing Okagbare,
“I have said it before and I will say it again. If you do not know the sport, not passionate about it and us the athletes, then you have no business being there as an administrator. The sports system in Nigeria is so flawed and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damage,” Okagbare, a silver medallist at the Beijing Games in 2008, wrote.
“They were busy fighting over power, exercising their pride over PUMA contract/kits, forgetting their major responsibility ‘THE ATHLETES”. It’s sad that this cycle keeps repeating itself and some people will come out to say I am arrogant for speaking my truth. It is my CAREER,’ she tweeted
One of the disqualified athletes and member of the mixed 4x400m relay team, Chidi Okezie, took to Instagram to express his displeasure.
“The country of Nigeria is crying out for help. The athletes are suffering in silence. If we never had a shot, how are we going to take it? Direct all your questions to @theafn. Stay blessed, keep believing,” Okezie posted.
His post was shared by other athletes including Ese Brume and sprinter Enoch Adegoke
Brume further wrote on Instagram, pleading with the officials not to destroy their careers.
“It’s heartbreaking and disappointing to see that the system is getting worse each day. Nobody cares about us (the athletes). It’s a shame to the entire Nigeria, Nigeria Olympic Committee and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria that this is happening. Destroying the career of innocent athletes for what reason.
“We need help; we can’t continue to live like this. This is what we do to earn a living. It is high time we spoke up and come together as one to ensure something is done. We are humans, not animals. Stop making our hearts bleed,” Brume wrote.
Meanwhile, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has described as misleading the headline in some national dailies, which described as a ban the ineligibility of 10 Nigerian athletes to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to non-completion of their mandatory three out-of-competition tests (OCT).
Secretary-General of the Federation, Adeniyi Beyioku, said in a statement that the athletes had not done anything wrong as to be labelled ‘banned’ as the screaming headlines in some Nigerian dailies indicated.
‘The attention of the Federation has been drawn to reports in some Nigerian newspapers that our athletes have been banned. This is far from the truth. The athletes were only declared ineligible to compete because they did not complete the three out-of-competition tests that would have made them eligible for only the Tokyo Olympic Games.
‘While the Federation regrets the unfortunate incident, we however plead on behalf of the athletes, who have complained about the negative tag, that they are not banned from track and field as they have not violated any anti-doping rules.
‘The athletes are free to compete in the many track meets that will be held immediately after the Olympics across the globe and it will be inappropriate and unpatriotic to tag them as banned athletes.
‘The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) did not use the word ‘banned’ in its press release naming 18 athletes from six countries who are ineligible to compete at this Olympics due to the OCT failure.
Both the AIU and World Athletics usually, after all anti-doping procedures have been concluded, state the duration of the ban or suspension slammed on any violator of the antidumping rules.
“In the case of our athletes, they have not contravened any anti-doping rule and should be tagged as one,” said Beyioku who has just been recognised as the secretary-general of the AFN by World Athletics.
I Wept For Disqualified Atheletes- Ajunwa
Former Nigerian Olympian and Gold medalist Chioma Ajunwa, said she wept for the disqualified Nigerian athletes at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
She disclosed this while speaking as a guest on LEADERSHIP podcast studio’s coverage of the 2020 Olympics program Tokyo 2020 In 120.
She said “I wept when I got the news of the disqualification of the atheletes,because I put myself in the shoes of those athletes, I know the pain of them not competing at the Olympics.It would have been better if they competed and lost than them not competing at all.”
She expressed optimism that the other athletes who where cleared will rise up to the occasion and do the nation proud.
Chioma Ajunwa won gold for Nigeria at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in the long jump event. Since her gold winning performance in 1996, Nigeria is yet to win a gold medal in an individual performance at the global sporting fiesta.