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Blessing Okagbare

18.02.2022 Featured Nigerian Athlete Blessing Okagbare Gets 10-Year Ban ‘for Cheating’ at 2020 Olympics

Published 18th Feb, 2022

By Joseph Adeiye

The Disciplinary Tribunal of the Athletics Integrity Unit has handed a 10-year ban to Blessing Okagbare, a Nigerian athlete, for breaching anti-doping rules on different occasions at the 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo in 2021.

Okagbare, who won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics, was suspended during the 2020 games after failing a drug test. She was a medal contender for the women’s 100m race, but was ruled out of the semi-finals after testing positive for a human growth hormone.

Okagbare was charged for violating anti-doping rules in October 2020, but she denied the accusations. The sprinter has now been found culpable for the use of multiple prohibited substances and refusal to co-operate with the Athletics Integrity Unit’s investigation into the case.

The sole arbitrator in the case said Okagbare’s use of multiple prohibited substances was part of an organised doping regimen prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. The athlete’s multiple use of drugs and uncooperative behaviour were said to warrant an additional period of ineligibility on top of a standard four-year sanction.

“The Disciplinary Tribunal has banned Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare for a total of 10 years, five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to co-operate with the AIU’s investigation into her case. The sole arbitrator adjudicating the case concluded that the athlete’s use of multiple prohibited substances as part of an organised doping regimen in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic Games was egregious conduct that amounted to aggravating circumstances under the Rules thereby warranting an additional period of ineligibility on top of the standard four-year sanction.

“The sole arbitrator also recognised the AIU’s right to carry out investigations, including the imaging of electronic devices, and to impose sanctions when an athlete refuses to co-operate with an investigation and thereby frustrates the AIU’s ability to fulfil its mandate to protect the integrity of the sport of athletics. In this instance, the sole arbitrator concluded that the athlete’s refusal to cooperate had denied the AIU the opportunity to discover evidence of possible further rule violations by her as well possible violations of the rules by others, for which he imposed an additional sanction of five years,” a statement released by the AIU on Friday reads.

“We welcome the decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal; a ban of 10-year 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.

“On 07 October 2021, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) had 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 Ms Okagbare had been provisionally suspended on 31 July 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.

“The athlete has the right to appeal against the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 30-days. The reasoned decision can be accessed here.

”On 12 January 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.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit document

Okagbare has 30 days to appeal the Athletics Integrity Unit’s disciplinary tribunal’s decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Published 18th Feb, 2022

By Joseph Adeiye

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