Nigerian top athlete, Blessing Okagbare, has been “provisionally” suspended for doping on Saturday.
The Athletics Integrity Unit made this known in a press statement, saying that the 32-year-old Nigerian athlete tested positive for a banned substance – human growth hormone.
The ant-doping body said Okagbare tested positive for the prohibited substance in an out-of-competition test on July 19 – four days before the Olympics opened.
The results of that test were only received by track and field’s anti-doping body late Friday after Okagbare, who won her heat in 11.05 seconds, qualified for the semi-finals of women’s 100m race at the Olympics
With the suspension, Okagbare will no longer compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
The statement read, “The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has provisionally suspended Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria today with immediate effect after a sample collected from the sprinter tested positive for human Growth Hormone.
“Growth Hormone is a non-specified substance on the 2021 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and a provisional suspension is mandatory following an adverse analytical finding for such substance under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules.
“The AIU collected the sample from Ms. Okagbare during an out-of-competition test on 19 July. The WADA-accredited laboratory that analysed the sample notified the AIU of the adverse analytical finding at mid-day Central European Time yesterday, Friday 30 July.
“The athlete was notified of the adverse analytical finding and of her provisional suspension this morning in Tokyo. She was scheduled to participate in the semi-finals of the women’s 100m this evening.
“The AIU will make no further comment on this matter at this time.”
Another setback for Team Nigeria’s medal search
Okagbare is one of Nigeria’s brightest chances of a medal at the Tokyo Olympics and the country is still in search of medal eight days after the competition started.
Okagbare and Grace Nwokocha were expected to face daunting tasks of reaching the final of the women’s 100m at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.
Nwokocha finished third with a new personal best of 11.00secs behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is aiming to become the first woman to win three Olympic 100m gold medals.
She won the heat with an impressive 10.84secs, with Switzerland’s Ajia Del Fonte placing second with 10.91secs.
Okagbare was expected to run in her third semi-final since she made her debut in the event at the 2012 Olympics in London, has been drawn in lane five of the first semi-final heat against defending champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica, who ran 10.82 seconds to win her first-round heat and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.
Nwokocha, 20, on her part has been drawn to run from lane nine in the third semi-final heat, with the fastest woman alive, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Daryl Neita of Great Britain, Teahna Daniels of the USA and fellow African, Muriel Ahoure of Ivory Coast.
Okagbare reacts after 10 Nigerian athletes disqualification
Okagbare’s suspension is coming about 48 hours after the disqualification of 10 Nigerian athletes from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 governing the National Anti-Doping Federation.
The PUNCH had reported that Jumper Ruth Usoro, sprinter Favour Ofili and eight other Nigerian athletes were on Wednesday disqualified from the track and field events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Aside Usoro and Ofili, others affected were Chioma Onyekwere (discus), Annette Echikunwoke (hammer), Chidi Okezie (4X400m mixed relays), Knowledge Omovoh (4x100m women), Rosemary Chukwuma (100m), Glory Patrick (4X400m mixed relays), Yinka Ajayi (4X400m mixed relays) and Tima Godless (4X100m relays).
Reacting, Okagbare had said that the sport system in Nigeria is flawed and that athletes are always at the receiving end of the damages.
Lamenting that athletes are being neglected, Okagbare noted that those who are not passionate about sports should not handle the administrative positions.
She said, “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. The sport system in Nigeria is so flawed and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damages.
“They were busy fighting over power, exercising their pride over puma contract/kits forgetting their major responsibility “THE ATHLETES”. It’s sad that this cycle keeps repeating its self and some people will come out to say I am arrogant for speaking my truth. It is my CAREER.”