Athletics Cover

Disaster: 10 Nigerian athletes banned from Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

…Regulating body declares 18 ineligible over drug test matters

…Experts blame Nigerian officials of negligence

…Call for investigation

By Ezeocha Nzeh, with Agency report.

Team Nigeria camp at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, was hit with a devastating blow on Wednesday following the declaration by the World Athletics regulatory arm, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) that ten Nigerian athletes have been ruled ineligible to participate at the games in Japan, thereby dampening the country’s hope for a successful competition.

The AIU report ruled the Nigerian athletes ineligible due to failure to meet the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules for ‘Category A’ federations.

A statement on Wednesday from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent body created by World Athletics that manages all integrity issues – both doping and non-doping – revealed that a total of 18 athletes have been declared ineligible.

Nigeria is the most affected country, not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 for 10 athletes.

The AIU explained that under the framework of Rule 15 governing National Federation Anti-Doping Obligations, which came into force in January 2019, National Federations, are accountable for ensuring appropriate anti-doping measures are in place in their respective jurisdictions.

Among other things, the rule sets out minimum requirements for testing for the national teams of ‘Category A’ federations deemed to have the highest doping risk and considered as a threat to the overall integrity of the sport.

The key requirement in Rule 15 is that an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event.

Category A’ federations are those that are deemed to have the highest doping risk and considered as a threat to the overall integrity of the sport

The names of the athletes were not released in the statement.

Despite not having major doping cases, Nigeria was included in Category A at the start of 2020 following a continued period of weak domestic testing levels, according to the AIU website.

Chair of the AIU board, David Howman enjoined countries to play their part in the fight against doping, saying “National Federations must play their part in supporting anti-doping efforts. The eligibility rules for athletes from ‘Category A’ countries are very clear and compliance is essential for cementing the required long-term changes and ensuring a level playing field for clean athletes.”

“I must underline that there have been significant improvements in anti-doping efforts in most ‘Category A’ countries thanks to this rule. It is clear that the relevant National Federations in conjunction with their NADOs have started to take their testing responsibilities seriously, and I thank them for their efforts, but there remains a long way to go in some circumstances,” Howman added.

Meanwhile experts have called on the federal government to investigate the failure of both the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) to take proper precautionary measures before the athletes were flown to Japan for games.

Some of the key players in the country’s athletics field who spoke to The AUTHIORITY in reaction to what they described as an international disgrace for Nigeria blame d the Ministry of Sports for taking full charge of the Athletics federation from the board, blaming the Minister of S[ports and the officials of the ministry for the disaster.

They queried why the Nigerian officials could overlook an important task that is part of the requirements for competing in the games, only to a.lllow the wrld athletics body to kick its athletes out of the games.

“We demand an investigation into this calamity that somebody has befallen on the nation. Everybody knows that drug test is one of the major requirements for athletes that confirm their eligibility for games like this nature. Why did we not conduct full test for our athletes?

The Minister and his officials were busy fighting over who takes charge of the athletes and dissolving the boards, while they over looked such crucial matters that concerns the country’s image.

It would be recalled that the AFN has been in crisis following a disagreement between the Minister of Sports Sunday Dare and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (APN) board led by Hon, Ibrahim Gusau, which led to the impeachment of the president

The Minister it was gathered, through a faction that is made up of few members of Gusau’s board elected a factional president who acted few months before the two factions conducted separate elections at the expiration of the board

The rival factions were therefore laying claim to the leadership of the AFN

Two parallel elections were held in Kebbi and Abuja on Monday June 14 to elect leaders for the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

One of the elections produced Ibrahim Gusau as president while the other produced Tonobok Okowa as AFN president.

Gusau was re-elected as AFN President at the 2021 Elective Congress of his faction in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State.

According to a statement issued by the Gusau-led AFN, he polled 20 votes while Uche Muoma got just two votes from the 22 delegates present at the venue.

For the position of 1st Vice President, North West Zonal Representative Sunday Adeleye got 15 votes to emerge the winner ahead of Solomon Abari who had four votes and Patrick Estate with three votes.

Others elected at the Kebbi election included 2nd Vice President, Nneka Ikem, Patrick Estate (South-east), Paul Wakama (South-south), Solomon Abari (North-east) and Vitalis Lashimi (North-central) all emerged from their zones as representatives.

Other members of the board include Olu Sule who is a representative of the Technical Officials and Coaches alongside Moses Suleiman as Athletes Representative.

In his acceptance speech, Gusau reportedly thanked the delegates for their support in making his first-term a success while counting on their continued support for the next four years.

In Abuja, Tonobok Okowa of Delta State also emerged as the AFN President at the Elective Congress of the AFN faction recognised by Nigeria’s sports ministry, which took place at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium Abuja, with 35 state chairpersons of the AFN, who had converged in Abuja since Saturday for the congress and elections.

The election was held following the sports ministry’s invocation of section 10.4 of the 2017 AFN Constitution which led to the controversial dissolution of the Gusau-led board citing the expiration of its term.

According to a statement received from the sports minister’s office, the ministry’s representatives, the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) and Nigeria’s Ambassador-designate to South Africa amongst others were observers at Monday’s election in Abuja.

It is however expected that the World Athletics (WA) and the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) will, in the coming days, make categorical statements on which of the rival factions is legitimate.

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