Nigeria’s number one female athlete, Blessing Okagbare has been named among the country’s array of competitors disqualified from competing at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, as she was also found to have fallen foul of out of competition doping requirements, megasportsarena.com reports.
Although she was not initially named among the ten Nigerian athletes that had earlier been disqualified from the Games, startling news emerged early Saturday that the Sapele-born 100m, who won bronze in the women’s long jump at Beijing 2008 Olympics, had also been found culpable.
While coinciding with the start of athletics events at the Games on Friday, the development serves as a major blow for Nigeria’s medals hope on the tracks as well as overall on the table, as the US-based runner had been in top from all season long and looked ready to stage a bold surge for top spot along Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.
Okagbare and Grace Nwokocha were expected to face daunting tasks of reaching the final of the women’s 100m at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, but a statement by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disclosed that the 32-year-old Nigerian athlete tested positive for a human growth hormone.
Nwokocha finished third with a new personal best of 11.00secs behind Fraser-Pryce, who is aiming to become the first woman to win three Olympics women 100m gold medals and won the heat with an impressive 10.84secs, with Switzerland’s Ajia Del Fonte second with 10.91secs.
Okagbare, who was expected to run in her third semi-final since she made her debut in the event at the 2012 Olympics in London, was drawn in lane five of the first semi-final heat against defending champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica, who ran 10.82 seconds to win her first-round heat and Great Britain’s Asher-Smith.
Okagbare’s disqualification comes just 72 hours after the expulsion of 10 Nigerian athletes for not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 governing the National Anti-Doping Federation.
Those initially affected were jumper Ruth Usoro, sprinter Favour Ofili, Chioma Onyekwere (discus), Annette Echikunwoke (hammer), Chidi Okezie (4X400m mixed relays), Knowledge Omovoh (4x100m women), Rosemary Chukwuma (100m), Glory Patrick (4X400m mixed relays), Yinka Ajayi (4X400m mixed relays) and Tima Godless (4X100m relays).
The AIU added that Okagbare tested positive for the prohibited substance in an out-of-competition test on July 19 – four days before the Olympics opened – but the results were received by track and field’s anti-doping body late Friday.
Dramatically, the announcement only came after Okagbare had already competed in Tokyo and actually won her heat in 11.05seconds, thereby qualifying for the semi-finals of women’s 100m, but she will no longer compete in any event at the 2020 Games.
That much was expatiated in the statement, which read: “The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has provisionally suspended Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria today 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.
“The AIU collected the sample from Ms. Okagbare during an out-of-competition test on 19 July. The WADA-accredited laboratory that analysed the sample notified the AIU of the adverse analytical finding at mid-day Central European Time yesterday, Friday 30 July.
“The athlete was notified of the adverse analytical finding and of her provisional suspension this morning in Tokyo. She was scheduled to participate in the semi-finals of the women’s 100m this evening. The AIU will make no further comment on this matter at this time.”