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Tokyo Olympics: AFN gets new anti-doping boss after losing 10 athletes over drug-test standards

By Ifeanyi Ibeh
29 July 2021   |   10:12 am
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria has appointed Professor Ken Anugweje as the head of the Medical and Anti-Doping Commission of the Federation after 10 Team Nigeria track and field athletes were barred from competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games by the Athletics Integrity Unit. The Athletics Integrity Unit was founded by World Athletics in April…

Prof. Ken Anugweje (second left) meets Sports Minister Sunday Dare in 2019 when he was head of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Nigeria’s Performance at the Doha Championships. Photo: TWITTER/SUNDAYDARESD

The Athletics Federation of Nigeria has appointed Professor Ken Anugweje as the head of the Medical and Anti-Doping Commission of the Federation after 10 Team Nigeria track and field athletes were barred from competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games by the Athletics Integrity Unit.

The Athletics Integrity Unit was founded by World Athletics in April 2017 to combat doping in the sport of athletics.

”The federation has taken this proactive step to avoid future occurrences by appointing Professor Ken Anugweje as the head of the Medical and Anti- Doping  Commission of the Federation,” Tonobok Okowa, the President of the AFN, said in a statement signed by him.

Anugweje, the Director of the University of Port Harcourt Sports Institute, was the head of the AFN’s Medical and Anti-Doping Commission during the administration of Solomon Ogba.

The commission, and other sub-committees of the AFN, however, became moribund during the last AFN administration headed by Ibrahim Shehu-Gusau.

The athletes barred from competing at the on-going Olympics are Ruth Usoro, Favour Ofili, Chioma Onyekwere, Annette Echikunwoke, Chidi Okezie, Knowledge Omovoh, Rosemary Chukwuma, Glory Patrick, Yinka Ajayi and Tima Godless.

They did not test positive for any prohibited substances but were barred because their out-of-competition tests did not comply with the sample collection and analysis standards of the world anti-doping body, WADA.

However, 12 of the 22 Team Nigeria athletes registered for the track and field events, led by reigning Nigeria sprint queen, Blessing Okagbare, were cleared by the Athletics Integrity Unit to compete in the athletics event of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics which gets underway on Friday.

The AFN president assures that the federation has put in place appropriate measures to comply with Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules of World Athletics and explained why the 10 athletes did not receive the clearance to compete at the game from the AIU.

“All our athletes resident in Nigeria and who qualified for the Olympic Games completed the three mandatory tests. Most of our top athletes resident in the USA also completed their tests,” Okowa said in the statement.

“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, who was only elected President of the AFN in mid-June, also assured that the 12 athletes cleared for the games are in high spirit and will strive to rewrite the unwanted records recorded at the last two Olympics when the team failed to win any medal.

Athletics accounts for 13 of the 25 medals won by Nigeria at the Olympics, including two of the country’s three gold medals.

The gold medals were won by long jumper Chioma Ajunwa ( Atlanta 1996) and the men’s 4x400m relay team (Sydney 2000).