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Okagbare was never abandoned in Tokyo, says AFN

By Gowon Akpodonor
10 November 2021   |   3:31 am
An official of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has described as false an allegation by Blessing Okagbare’s sister, Grace that the sprinter was abandoned soon...

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 30, 2021 Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare reacts after winning her race in the women’s 100m heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. – Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare has been barred from the Olympics after failing a drug test, the first doping case of the Tokyo games track and field competition, officials said on July 31, 2021. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

An official of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has described as false an allegation by Blessing Okagbare’s sister, Grace that the sprinter was abandoned soon after she was suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) over drugs issues at the Tokyo Olympics Games.

Okagbare was suspended on the eve of her semifinal in the 100m event in Tokyo.

Apart from accusing the nation of abandoning the sprinter, her sister also alleged that Blessing was being forced to accept doping charges instituted against her by the AIU.

However, an official of the AFN told The Guardian yesterday that top officials of the federation as well as those in Team Nigeria nearly ‘stepped out of the boundary’ in Tokyo in their bid to show Okagbare solidarity shortly after the news of her suspension was broken.

The AFN official said: “It is not true that Nigeria abandoned Okagbare as alleged by her sister, Grace. We went contrary to the guidelines in Tokyo in our bid to show our solidarity and love to her. When the news of her suspension was broken, Team Nigeria quickly dispatched some top officials to her. They stayed with Blessing in her room consoling her. Some of them even stayed with her throughout the night.

“Even when Blessing was leaving for the airport, she did not go alone. So, why will her sister point accuse fingers at the AFN and Nigeria that Blessing was abandoned? I can’t also understand why Grace is saying that Blessing is being forced to accept doping charges instituted against her by the Athletics Integrity Unit. Did anybody force her to take performance-enhancing drugs in the first place? Is Blessing still a baby?”

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) had said that it charged Okagbare after she tested positive for human growth hormone and recombinant erythropoietin (EPO).