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Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare has been handed a 10-year doping ban by the Disciplinary Tribunal reports the Athletics Integrity Unit (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 Okagbare suspension is the first in athletics since the four-year ban that was handed down to American middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan in August of 2021.

On Oct. 7, 2021, the AIU pressed charges against Ms. Okagbare in relation to separate disciplinary matters. First, for the presence and use of multiple (two) prohibited substances (human Growth Hormone (HGH) and recombinant erythropoietin (EPO)) for which she had been provisionally suspended on July 31, 2021, the day on which she had been scheduled to participate in the semi-finals of the Tokyo 2020 women’s 100m. Subsequently, in accordance with Rule 12 of the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, she was charged with a refusal to co-operate with the AIU’s investigation into her case.

Of significance


On Jan. 12, 2022, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the unsealing of a first criminal charge under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act against Eric Lira, a US-based “naturopathic” therapist, who is alleged to have supplied performance-enhancing drugs to athletes before the Tokyo Olympic Games. The sole arbitrator concluded that Athlete 1 named in the criminal complaint is Blessing Okagbare. The criminal investigation in the United States is ongoing and the AIU is working closely with USADA to follow developments in the matter. The AIU is thankful to USADA, the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for their contribution to the integrity of our sport.

This is unusual in that typically doping matters do not end up as criminal cases in the legal system, although not unprecedented, as Lance Armstrong, Alberto Salazar, and Marion Jones, for example, had legal charges pursued.

The original charges

She was originally banned for four years and had unsuccessfully appealed the decision.

Okagbare specialises in the 100m sprint as well as the long jump. She won the preliminary round of the Tokyo Olympic Games 100m, before receiving the provisional suspension. Her B sample resulted in another positive. She was set to serve out her four-year doping ban, however, the B sample positive would have likely ended her career. The ten-year ban puts to rest any chance that she will compete again.

She is a six-time African Championships gold medallist and took silver during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the long jump.
Her 100mbest is 10.79 and 22.04 in the 200m, which are both national records. She is also a World Athletics Championships silver medallist in the long jump event. Her best jump is 7.00m.

The AIU had banned 10 Nigerians from Tokyo as the athletes were not tested rigorously enough in advance of the Games.

There is a statute of limitations to testing of 10 years and a storage capacity of 10 years. The benefit for testing agencies, WADA, and the AIU to the long-term testing and re-testing period means seeking new performance-enhancing drugs and methods and finding more effective ways to test, puts the testing ahead of the dopers, eventually.