New Telegraph

Tokyo 2020: The demon of out-ofcompetition tests: Who is to blame?

 

 

There was palpable fear for some of the country’s athletes even before they left for Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games, and the fear was confirmed during the week when 10 of them were disqualified from taking part at the Games.

After perfecting her change of country to Nigeria, hammer throw women, Annette Echiwunke, was expected to at least get to the final of her event and probably win medal for the country, but she won’t be having that opportunity as she was one of the 10 asked to go home by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics.

 

While 12 athletes were cleared by the Integrity unit of World Athletics, 10 others like Chioma Onyekwere, Favour Ofili, Knowledge Omovoh, Chidi Okezie, Yinka Ajayi, Ruth Usoro and Yinka Ajayi were sent packing.

 

While reacting on her Facebook page, track and field star, Blessing Okagbare, was very bitter, saying the administrators only care about themselves and not the athletes. “I have said it before and I will say it again. If you do not know the sport, not passionate about it/ us (the athletes), then you have no business there as an administrator.

 

The sport system in Nigeria is so flawed and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damage,” she posted. She added: “They were busy fighting over power, excercising 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.”

 

An athletics follower and journalist, Olukayode Thomas, in the past had warned the Athletic Federation of Nigeria and also the ministry of the implications of Nigeria been placed in Category A of the AIU over the country’s noncompliance with doping measure in the past.

 

Speaking with our correspondent, ex-international, Enefiok Udo-Obong, said nobody should blame the athletes for what happened.

 

“The truth is we need to be abreast with the news of athletics and what it entails before looking at who to blame,” the Olympian said. “Foremost, the root of what’s going on at the moment is the fact that Nigeria had a lot of doping infraction and the country was now placed among those WADA doesn’t trust as per doping; those countries under the high risk category are placed in Category A and the rules state that all athletes from the countries in Category A must at least within four months of a major championship, have minimum of three out of competition testing which must be within three weeks interval.

 

“The WA is trying to make sure the athletes from such countries don’t fail any doping test at a major championship.

 

“It is very expensive to do dope testing of athletes, also the logistics because you don’t even know the athletes that are going to qualify, but you can have the probables and if the federation is upright and proactive, they will know the athletes that are likely to qualify even before the trials.

“The athletes are not to blame because it is not the duty of the athletes, but it is unfortunate that they are the ones bearing the brunt of what has happened. “The problem falls under the purview of the AFN, not the ministry at the moment, because the information, letters and communication from WA, came to them.

 

I am sure the WA would have been communicating with the federation, the athletes that have qualified, those that have already done their doping test, and their job through the technical department should be to make sure the athletes that have qualified are taken for the test.

“Unfortunately, the federation was involved in a leadership tussle and the only one who had access to the email of the WA should come out and tell us what really happened.

 

“Even if there is a leadership battle, there shouldn’t be a selfish agenda, because the athletes who are not the cause of the fight are the ones being punished. “I would love to get an answer to two questions, why is it that Nigeria was among the only nine countries listed in category A?

 

That means there has been systemic failure in our anti-doping policy. Secondly, we need to know who and who are supposed to know the athletes that are free and those that are not and why didn’t they do the tests for them? I hope there will be punishment for those involved.”

 

Former chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr Kweku Tandoh, said lessons must be learnt from what has happened while urging everyone to start taking responsibility. He added that so many people were culpable in the incident while placing the major blame on the AFN.

Tandoh stated: “I think the people that should take the major responsibility is the AFN because it is their responsibility to make sure everything is in place before the Games, but that doesn’t absolve the athletes and the coaches because these are professionals who should know the rules especially as regards what they must submit at a particular period before the Games.

 

“The three out of the competition test must be done and even if the administrator didn’t remember, the athletes should bring it to their notice and the right thing done.

 

“The same thing goes to the coaches, so at the end of the day it is a general systemic failure on every part; something that is very embarrassing to the country and something must be done about it. It must be properly investigated.

“For me, quite a number of people, including the concerned athletes but more especially the federation administrative officials, have a major question to answer.

“It should never have happened at all and from what I heard, some people actually pointed this out long ago and nothing was done, it is an oversight and now becoming embarrassing to the country.

“The major lesson now so as to forestall future occurrence rather than looking for who to blame, is to learn from it. People should start doing their job, right people should be put in the right places, it is more of an administrative lapse, that means the AFN should get its administrative structure running perfectly to avoid this kind of thing happening in the future.

 

“Everybody needs to wake up and know that there are rules guiding all sports. You must know the rules and also follow them.” The AFN led by its president, Tonobok Okowa, already accepted the blame for what happened and promised to make things right going forward.

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