Nigeria: Banned Athletes Protest in Streets of Tokyo

Athletics field.
31 July 2021

Ten would-be Olympians were banned from competing in the track and field competition after Nigerian sports officials allegedly failed to properly register them for three mandatory out-of-competition tests.

Nigerian athletes protested in Tokyo on yesterday after they were disqualified from the Olympics for failing to meet anti-doping testing requirements.

The Ministry of Sports and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria said the athletes' tests did not meet collection and analysis standards and the Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles the anti-doping program for the sport, said the athletes didn't meet the testing requirements, the outlet reported.

"The AFN bears responsibility for any lapses that may have occurred during the process and reassures Nigerians that our performances will not be negatively impacted," the AFN said in response.

"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. However, a few athletes in the American collegiate system were tested but those tests were deemed not to have complied with sample collection and analysis standards."

But the star runners claim the snafu wasn't their fault and held signs with messages like "Why should we suffer for someone else's negligence" and "We are not just alternates but potential medalists."

The AFN noted no Nigerian athlete tested positive for prohibited substances.

Blessing Okagbare, one of Nigeria's brightest hope in the games, is leading the pack of those speaking out against the apparent mismanagement.

"I have said it before and I will say it again. If you do not know the sport, not passionate about it/us (the athletes), then you have no business there as an administrator," Okagbare said while reacting to the decision of the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent body created by World Athletics.

"The sport system in Nigeria is so flaw(ed) and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damages."

The country's highest-ranking table tennis player Quadri Aruna is miffed at the country's sports administrators' treatment of athletes.

Aruna's anger is evident in the three Instagram posts he posted yesterday. He claimed that he has been threatened to be expelled from Team Nigeria's camp at the Olympics.

"Athletes were been short paid and nobody should complain," Aruna said in one of the Instagram posts.

"If Honourable minister don't (sic) come and address the athletes, these officials will spoil all the good things you have been doing."

Meanwhile, President of one of the two factions of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Tonobok Okowa, has appointed Ken Anugweje as the Head of the Medical and Anti Doping Commission of the Federation.

The step is coming on the heels of the Athletics Integrity Unit's decision to disqualify the 10 Nigerian athletes from competing at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics due to uncompleted Out of Competition Tests (OCTs).

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