Opinion: The disqualification of ten Nigerian athletes from competing in Tokyo 2020 is a “disgrace”

By Amos Joseph

The disqualification of ten Nigerian athletes from Tokyo 2020 track and field events is a disgrace.

Nigerian athletes protest about the ban in Tokyo

Let’s be honest. How do you explain taking athletes to a global event such as the Olympics without doing due diligence? How?

The athletes will not grace the stage because they have not carried out recommended pre-game tests as required by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an anti-doping watchdog for World Athletics.

Lest we forget, Nigeria was added to the ‘Category A’ list in 2020 after a “continued period of weak domestic testing levels”, according to the AIU. Being on that list means that Nigeria is among the countries regarded as “high risk” because of the standard of domestic testing arrangements.

Nigeria registered to participate in ten events at the Olympics with athletics posing a bright spot for medals. But with this news from the AIU, chances of podium finishes may just have been dampened.

Athletics alone accounts for 13 out of 25 medals won by the country at the games before now.

Nigerian athletes make their feelings known

For an event held every four years, and with plenty of notice, these details should have been sorted ahead of time. Plenty of questions are begging for answers.

Top athletes have been speaking out, placing the blame on the administrators and questioning their competence.

Thirty-two-year-old Olympic and World Championship medalist Blessing Okagbare tweeted from Tokyo: “I have said it before and I will say it again. If you do not know the sport, not passionate about it/Us (the athletes), then you have no business there as an administrator. The sport system in Nigeria is so flaw and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damages..

“…they were busy fighting over power, Excercising their pride over puma contract/ kits forgetting their major responsibility “THE ATHLETES”. It’s sad that this cycle keeps repeating its self and some people will come out to say I am arrogant for speaking my truth. It is my CAREER.”

Okagbare is among the 12 cleared to take to the tracks, but what becomes of the fate of the rest?

Earlier in the week discus thrower Chioma Onyekwere was reported to have been abandoned in a hotel in Tokyo and was yet to join her mates in the games village. But the country’s Olympic Committee head stated that it was untrue.

Chioma tweeted: “It has come to our attention that 10 athletes are not eligible to compete in Athletics for Nigeria, including myself. The athletes are not at fault for this. Please we need your help on how we can waive this so all 10 of us can compete. @WorldAthletics @aiu_athletics”.

A total of 20 athletes have been banned from competing by the AIU. Nigeria is the worst affected with ten, Belarus and Ukraine have three each, Kenya has two, and Ethiopia and Morocco have one each.

Are the athletes at fault? Are athletes even aware of their responsibilities while preparing for events? Or should we just lay the blame on the officials who should know?

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Sports Ministry, the Olympic Committee, and the Athletics Federation are yet to comment on the matter officially.

Apart from the opportunity of winning medals, it will be a waste of years of preparation both for the athletes and the country. The only way to save this from happening in the future is to properly investigate and sanction those who dropped the ball.

Regardless of whatever happens in Tokyo 2020 at the end of the day, this has once again raised the dust on if we have the round pegs in the round holes.

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