July 31, (THEWILL) – Team Nigeria’s participation in the ongoing Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan, has been thrown into shock with the confirmation that Blessing Okagbare, the reigning African Queen of track and field, sprinter, a silver medalist in the long jump at the Beijing Games in 2008, who is as a major contender for 100m gold after winning her heat on Friday had failed a drugs test.
Okagbare was due to race in the semi-final on Saturday when a statement from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) confirmed the 32-year-old had returned a positive test for Human Growth Hormone after an out-of-competition test two weeks ago.
The Press Release from the AIU said it was placing Okagbare under provisional suspension with immediate effect after a sample collected from the sprinter tested positive for Human Growth Hormone.
Growth Hormone is a non-specified substance on the 2021 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and a provisional suspension is mandatory following an adverse analytical finding for such substance under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules.
AIU noted that the sample was taken from Okagbare on July 19 but the laboratory that analysed it only informed the AIU of the result following her win on Friday. The athlete was notified of her provisional suspension soon after the result returned.
This comes three days after 10 other athletes from Nigeria were declared ineligible for the Tokyo Olympics because of non-compliance with out-of-competition drug testing requirements before the start of the Games in Tokyo and comes weeks after US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the Olympics after she tested positive for having cannabis in her system from samples collected.
In a swift reaction to the news, the athletics governing body in Nigeria, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, said it received with great shock the press release by the AIU. In a statement of response, the AFN said it is in the process of obtaining the relevant details of the announcement after which a full reaction will be issued officially.
The Nigerian athlete was scheduled to participate in the semi-finals of the women’s 100m Saturday evening in Tokyo. This news comes as a huge blow to Nigeria’s entire team, their gold race and the country’s efforts to extricate itself from a weak testing category of countries.