By Victor Okoye
A total of 12 Nigerian athletes have been cleared by the Integrity unit of the World Athletics Council and eligible to compete at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic games.
This is according to Adeniyi Beyioku, Secretary General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 18 athletes from the final entries for the Tokyo Olympic Games were on Wednesday declared not eligible to compete.
This, according to the Athletics Integrity unit, was because the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules were not met by ‘Category A’ Federations.
In addition, two athletes from Kenya were replaced by the National Federation prior to the submission of their entries to World Athletics.
Nigeria was the most affected country, not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 for 10 athletes.
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 on 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 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event.
Only then do they become eligible to represent their national team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.
Beyioku said that he was delighted with the latest development and assured that the federation will continue to be the goose that lays Team Nigeria’s golden eggs at the Olympics.
“The Integrity Unit of the World Athletics Council has cleared 12 Nigerian athletes as eligible to participate fully at the Tokyo Olympics.
“These athletes are Blessing Okagbare, Ese Brume, Tobi Amusan, Divine Oduduru, Nwokocha Grace, Patience Okon George, Enoch Adegoke,Imaobong Nse Uko, Itsekiri Usheoritee,Enekwechi chuckwuebuka, Emmanuel Ojeli and Samson Nathaniel.
“Reigning Nigeria sprint queen and 100/200m record holder, Blessing Okagbare tops the list of 12 athletes the Athletics Integrity Unit has cleared to compete in the athletics event of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics which begins on Friday.
“Okagbare who is making her fourth appearance at the games will be competing in the women’s 100m heat on Friday,” he said.
He said also cleared to contest were sprint hurdler, Tobiloba Amusan, who is ranked number four in the 100m hurdles and long jumper Ese Brume, who tops the world list in her event coming to the games.
Also included in the list is Grace Nwokocha, the home-based sensation who clocked 11.09 seconds in March at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos to seal her qualification for the Tokyo Games.
Others are the trio of Divine Oduduru, Enoch Adegoke and Ushoritse Itshekiri who will be competing in the men’s 100m.
While Oduduru will also race in the 200m, an event he holds the national record of 19.73 seconds which he set two years ago in Austin, Texas in the USA to win the NCAA gold.
“Shot putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi who made it to the event’s final at the World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar in 2019 is also cleared to compete.
“The 4x400m mixed relay quartet of Imaobong Nse Uko, Patience Okon-George, Nataniel Samson and Ifeanyi Ojeli are also cleared to compete and will be in action on Friday in the first semifinal heat,” he said.
He added that the athletes were in good spirit and determined to return Nigeria to the podium for the first time since 2008 when Blessing Okagbare and the women’s 4x100m won Nigeria’s last medals in track and field.
Athletics accounts for 13 of the 25 medals won by the country at the games and two of the three gold medals.