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Thirteen Nigerian athletes were left at home for allegedly missing doping tests, while the team heads to Mauritius to compete in the African Athletics Championships. The championships serve as a qualifying meet for this summer’s World Athletics Championships happening in Eugene, Oregon starting July 15.

An official of the team told The Guardian shortly before their departure that among the athletes dropped were high jumper Aya David, long jumper Tobechukwu Emmanuel, Fadekemi Olude (10k walk), and Osaretin Joy Usunbon (4x400m).

This is not the first time that Nigerian athletes have run afoul of doping control. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) ruled that some competitors would be ineligible for the Tokyo Olympic Games due to similar non-compliance with out-of-competition drug testing in the lead-up to the Games.

Blessing Okagbare

The AIU was quoted at the time saying, “Nigeria is the most affected country, not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 for 10 athletes. Nigeria was included in Category A at the start of 2020 following a continued period of weak domestic testing levels.”

And then there was the massive 10-year doping ban handed to sprinter Blessing Okagbare in February this year.

Okagbare was handed the doping ban by the Disciplinary Tribunal. According to the AIU, she received five years for testing positive for a number of prohibited substances and an additional five years for not cooperating with the AIU’s investigation.

“We welcome the decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal; a ban of 10-years is a strong message against intentional and co-ordinated 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,” said Brett Clothier, Head of the AIU. 

The issue of compliance apparently exists not only at the athlete level, but with the Nigerian Federation. Apparently, the country’s athletes were not tested enough times in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games. The 10 (of 23) athletes who were already in the Olympic village protested, but to no avail.

The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) took responsibility for the lapse in testing, but it was not enough to have the affected athletes reinstated.

Nigeria has a history of sprinters and field event athletes testing positive for banned stimulants and the anabolic steroids stanozolol and methenolone as well as testosterone dating back to the mid-1990s.

A few currently suspended athletes…

Tosin Adeloye tested positive for the anabolic steroid methenolone at the National Sports Festival in Lagos in December 2012, at the age of 16. Adeloye was subsequently banned from sports for two years. The ban ended on 6 January 2015. She was caught a second time using exogenous steroids after serving her suspension. Her second suspension is up in July 2023.

Henry Azike was a sprinter who was banned for life ban after testing positive a second time for NR-AAF-Methenolone. His date of infraction was December 5.2012.

Vivian Chukwuemeka, prior to her lifetime ban, was one of the all-time greats at shot-put. Her 18.43m mark set almost 20 years ago has not been matched by anyone on the continent. Her crime: stanozolol.

Glory Onome Nathaniel who specialised in the 400m hurdles event, at age 26, tested positive for the presence of stanozolol and its metabolites in 2018.

Tega Odele, a 26-year-old 200m specialist failed a doping test for methenolone, an anabolic steroid in 2019.