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AFN apologises over disqualification as Anugweje heads medical, anti-doping unit

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(Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP)

• Anugweje heads medical, anti-doping unit
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) yesterday took full responsibility over the disqualification of 10 athletes from participating in the track and field events of the ongoing Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics (WA).

The disqualification of the 10 athletes out of 22 registered for the Games has sparked angry reactions from Nigerians at home and abroad.

The 10 affected athletes are Knowledge Omovoh, Ruth Usoro, Favor Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Glory Patrick, Yinka Ajayi, Tima Godbless, Chidi Okezie, Chioma Onyekwere and Annette Echikunwoke.

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AFN President Tonobok Okowa said yesterday that the federation had taken proactive steps to guard against such occurrence in the future by putting in place appropriate measures to comply with Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules of World Athletics.

Okowa, who expressed sadness over the development, explained why the 10 athletes did not receive AIU’s clearance to compete at the games.

“All our athletes resident in Nigeria and who qualified for the Olympic Games completed the three mandatory tests,” he said. “Most of our top athletes resident in the U.S. also completed their tests. But the 10 athletes, seven of whom are based in the U.S., failed to get the clearance needed.

“A few athletes in the American collegiate system were tested, but those tests were deemed not to have complied with WADA sample collection and analysis standards. It must be noted that no Nigerian athlete tested positive to prohibited substances,” Okowa stated.

The AFN boss, however, assured that the 12 athletes cleared for the games are in high spirit and will strive to rewrite records, which eluded Nigeria at the last two Olympics where the team failed to win any medal.

To avoid a repeat of the Tokyo incident in the future, the AFN has appointed Prof. Ken Anugweje as head of its Medical and Anti- Doping Commission.

Two other AFN board members, Omatseye Nesiama and U.S.-based Victor Okorie, have described the disqualification of the 10 athletes as unfortunate. “But we will make sure a mess like this won’t happen again,” Okorie said in a message to The Guardian.

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Track and field athletes have won 13 of the 25 medals Team Nigeria has won in the history of the Olympics Games with two of the three gold medals won by long jumper Chioma Ajunwa (Atlanta 1996) and the men’s 4x400m relay team (Sydney 2000).

Meanwhile, U.S.-based sprinter, Blessing Okagbare has descended on Nigerian sports administrators over the disqualification of the 10 athletes in Tokyo.

Okagbare, who will lead Grace Nwokocha in the 100 meters as the track and field events begin today, could not hide her feelings yesterday. “I have said it before and I will say it again. If you don’t know the sports, not passionate about it/us (the athletes), then you don’t have any 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.

“They were busy fighting over power, exercising their pride over Puma contract/kits forgetting their major responsibility ‘the athletes.’ It is 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.”

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