Why Blessing Okagbare was banned for 10 years, implications

Blessing Okagbare

By Nehru Odeh

In what sounds like a death knell to her career as a sprinter, Nigeria’s 2008 long jump silver medalist Blessing Okagbare has been banned for 10 years for doping, the Athletics Integrity Unit announced on Friday.

Blessing Okagbare was on Friday handed a 10-year ban in a statement by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) following her expulsion from last year’s Tokyo Olympics for doping violations.

She has 30 days to appeal the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

This ban invariably tolls the knell of the end of the Sapele-born sprinter’s career. At 33, Okagbare is already at the peak of her career. In 10 years’ time – when the ban will be lifted – she will be 43, and not too many athletes remain active to that age.

Okagbare was handed ‘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.’

She was expelled from the Tokyo Olympics last year before the women’s 100m semi-finals after testing positive for human growth hormone at an out-of-competition test in Slovakia on 19 July.

Brett Clothier, Head of the AIU, described the ruling as ‘a strong message against intentional and co-ordinated attempts to cheat at the very highest level of our sport.’

“The Disciplinary Tribunal has banned Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare for a total of 10 years,” read an AIU statement.

A copy of the judgement read in part, “For the reasons set out, The Tribunal:

“Finds the ADRVs contrary to Rules 2.1 and 2.2 ADR proved;

“Imposes a period of Ineligibility of five years concurrently on each of the Rule 2.1 and Rule 2.2 ADRVs;

“Finds that the Athlete failed to comply with the Demand and cooperate with the AIU investigation in breach of Rules 5.7.3 and 5.7.7 ADRV and imposes a consecutive period of Ineligibility of five years; and

“Therefore, imposes a total period of Ineligibility of ten years which commences on 31 July 2021.

“The Tribunal also orders that the Athlete’s results from and including 20 June 2021 are disqualified with all resulting consequences including forfeiture of any medals, titles, ranking points, and prize and appearance money.

“There is no order for costs.”

Okagbare was facing three charges after testing positive for human growth hormone and EPO, offences that forced her to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics, the Athletics Integrity Unit said Thursday.

AIU had revealed that Okagbare tested positive for blood-booster EPO in Nigeria in June, in addition to another failed test for human growth hormone in Slovakia in July, which was announced during the Olympics.

Okagbare was also charged with failing to cooperate with the investigation after she disobeyed an order to produce “documents, records and electronic storage devices” in relation to the other charges.

Okagbare, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, won her first-round heat of the women’s 100 metres in Tokyo before being forced to withdraw when her test results were announced.

Okagbare had earlier denied all the charges.

The sprinter represented Nigeria at three Olympics in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relays and long jump.