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Nigerian athletes protest against disqualification from Tokyo Olympic games

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

Scores of Nigerian athletes have marched across 2020 Tokyo Olympics games village, protesting against the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disqualification of seven of their colleagues representing the country in the track and field events.

The athletes said that the demonstration was to express their displeasure over the disqualification of seven of them by AIU, an independent body created by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), for not meeting the minimum testing requirements before their arrival at the competition.

Initially, the body saddled with anti-doping affairs among athletes had disqualified 10 of the 19 track and field athletes but later lifted the ban placed on three others, increasing the number of participants to 12.

During the protest on Friday, the demonstrators argued that their actions were basically to attract the Federal Government’s attention to the activities that had affected athletes’ development recently across the country.

The protesting athletes were armed with placards with different inscriptions: “Why should we suffer for someone else’s negligence”, “All we wanted to do was compete” and “We are not just alternates but potential medalists.”

According to the protesters, the constant testing, which was the reason for disqualification, was not the sole responsibility of their colleagues rather it was the duty of the country’s athletes body, the Athletes Federation of Nigeria (AFN), to ensure all participants comply with rules.

The protest came two days after the AIU disqualified the athletes and 10 others from different countries for not meeting the minimum testing requirements before their arrival at the competition.

AIU, a body created four years ago to combat both doping and non-doping issues in athletics said that they were disqualified after they contravened Rule 15 governing National Anti-Doping Federation.

In the statement released and titled: “20 athletes not eligible for Tokyo 2020 as minimum testing requirements not met by ‘category a’ federations”, it showed that Nigeria sportsmen and women were the most hit among those disqualified by the body.

The statement read in part, “Despite significant improvements in the domestic testing programmes in countries categorised as being the highest doping risk to the sport under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules (Anti-Doping Rules), 18 athletes from the final entries for the Tokyo Olympic Games are not eligible to compete because the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules were not met by ‘Category A’ Federations.

“In addition, two athletes from Kenya were replaced by the National Federation prior to the submission of their entries to World Athletics. Nigeria is the most affected country, not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 for 10 athletes.

“Nigeria was included in Category A at the start of 2020 following a continued period of weak domestic testing levels. Under the framework of Rule 15 governing National Federation Anti-Doping Obligations, which came into force in January 2019, National Federations are accountable for ensuring appropriate anti-doping measures are in place in their respective jurisdictions.

“Among other things, the Rule sets out minimum requirements for testing on the national teams of ‘Category A’ federations deemed to have the highest doping risk and considered as a threat to the overall integrity of the sport.

“The key requirement in Rule 15 is that an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. Only then do they become eligible to represent their national team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.

“For the year 2021, the seven identified ‘Category A’ National Federations are: Belarus, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Ukraine. The relevant data for the number of athletes from each federation for whom the testing requirements of Rule 15 were not met is set out in the table below:

“In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games, the ‘Category A’ Federations, in partnership with their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs), generally made significant progress with respect to their domestic testing programmes.”

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