Top Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare has been slammed with a 10-year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).
Nigerians were left in shock when the suspension of Okagbare was announced on the eve of the Women’s 100m semi-final race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After almost seven months of no verdict by the AIU, an outright ban has now been placed on Okagbare who remains Nigeria’s most successful athlete in recent times and one of Africa’s best too
According to the statement obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Okagbare is banned for five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to cooperate with the AIU’s investigation into her case.
The athlete has the right to appeal against the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 30-days.
While four-year bans are the maximum punishments given to first-time doping offenders in times past, the AIU in its statement said Okagbare’s ‘aggravating circumstances’ warranted a heavier punishment.
“The sole arbitrator adjudicating the case concluded that the athlete’s use of multiple prohibited substances as part of an organised doping regimen in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic Games was egregious conduct that amounted to aggravating circumstances under the Rules thereby warranting an additional period of ineligibility on top of the standard four-year sanction.”
Having also failed to cooperate with investigators as required, the AIU in its statement said it was necessary to send a warning signal to other athletes that such acts will only worsen their already bad situations.
“The sole arbitrator also recognised the AIU’s right to carry out investigations, including the imaging of electronic devices, and to impose sanctions when an athlete refuses to co-operate with an investigation and thereby frustrates the AIU’s ability to fulfil its mandate to protect the integrity of the sport of athletics.ⓘ
“In this instance, the sole arbitrator concluded that the athlete’s refusal to cooperate had denied the AIU the opportunity to discover evidence of possible further rule violations by her as well possible violations of the rules by others, for which he imposed an additional sanction of five years.”
The detection of Human Growth Hormone in a sample collected out-of-competition on 19 July in Slovakia and reported to the AIU on 30 July led to Okagbare’s suspension from the Tokyo Olympics.
Thereafter, she was charged with the presence and use of another prohibited substance following the detection of recombinant erythropoietin (EPO) in a sample collected out-of-competition on 20th June in Nigeria.
Human Growth Hormone and EPO are non-specified substances on the 2021 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
Sad end to Blessing’s blessed career
Okagbare is arguably Nigeria’s most-decorated athlete and holds the country’s 100m and 200m women’s records.
An Olympic and World Championship medalist, Okagbare made her Olympic debut in Beijing 2008 where she won a silver medal in the Long Jump and subsequently competed at both the London and Rio Olympic Games.
Though she competed at the Tokyo Olympics, her appearance was short-lived with the doping saga. Described as Nigeria’s Queen of the Tracks, Okagbare boasts a long list of accomplishments including the long jump silver and 100m bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
Apart from being a multi African champion, Okagbare also won the 100m/200m double at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Source: PREMIUM TIMES