By Ajuma Edwina Ameh
Following her expulsion from last year’s Tokyo Olympics for doping violations, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) on Friday handed a 10-year ban to Nigeria’s 2008 Olympics long jump silver medalist, Blessing Okagbare.
Okagbare, who is also a sprinter, was given five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to co-operate with the AIU’s investigation into her case, a statement by AIU said.
The statement by AIU Head, Brett Clothier, said: “The Disciplinary Tribunal has banned Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare for a total of 10 years.
“Five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to co-operate with the AIU’s investigation into her case.”
In January 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice had also identified Okagbare among the exhibits gathered against self-acclaimed kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor, Eric Lira, who provided performance-enhancing drugs to athletes who participated at the Tokyo Olympics.
“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.
“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.
“We welcome the decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal; a ban of 10-year is a strong message against intentional and coordinated attempts to cheat at the very highest level of our sport.
“This is an outcome that was driven by our intelligence-led target testing as well as our commitment to investigate the circumstances behind a positive test,” the statement said.