The Ibrahim Shehu Gusau-led Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), has laid the blame for the fiasco that led to the disqualification of 10 Nigerian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics on the doorstep of the Federal Ministry of Sports.
The association, in a statement issued by Gusau, said it repeatedly warned on the need to test the athletes, but was rebuffed by officials of the Ministry.
It also distanced itself from an earlier aim by the T. Okowa-led faction of the AFN that the Federation was responsible for the incident.
The statement reads: “The AFN is not responsible for the unfortunate incidents that led to the disqualification of 10 of our very promising athletes, not alternate athletes as the Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports Development labelled them and sought to deceive the world into believing, from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“We are pained by their disqualification, which could have been avoided and sympathize with these 10 athletes, some of whom we nurtured from the cradle. We reaffirm that we will always stand and defend the interests of Nigerian Athletes.
” The Federation distances itself from a statement titled: “RE: ATHLETICS INTEGRITY UNIT DECISION, AFN ASSURES NIGERIANS ON ATHLETES PERFORMANCE” and signed by one T. Okowa as this does not reflect our position on the matter. We did all within our powers to prevent the ugly incident.
“We emphatically reject the Statement in its entirety particularly Paragraph 3 which says: “The AFN bears responsibility for any lapses that may have occurred during the process and reassures Nigerians that our performances will not be negatively impacted.”
“We informed the National Anti-Doping Committee (NADO/NADC), which though ought to be independent, has been placed under the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD). In our correspondence dated March 13th 2020, the attention of the NADO/NADC was drawn to Rule 15 of Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) after we were classified as a Category A Federation. We advised on the need to carry out mandatory tests that would pull Nigeria out of the Category A classification.
“We categorically state that it is not the responsibility of the Federation to carry out Anti-Doping tests. It is that of NADO/NADC and since this organisation or committee had been placed under the control of the FMYSD, it behooves on the FMYSD to provide the funds required for the tests. The FMYSD, despite our public outcry and warning, refused to fund the NADO/NADC to carry out its primary responsibility. We recommended this in our mail of 28th March, 2020 to NADO/NADC and copied both the Ministry and AIU.
“On the 27th of May 2020, a letter from NADO/NADC titled: “ANTI-DOPING INFORMATION AND EDUCATION PLATFORM FOR ATHLETES IN THE NATIONAL REGISTERED TESTING POOL” and addressed to “The Secretary-General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria” was made available to us. The letter contained a list of 52 high ranking athletes registered in the NADC 2020 Testing Pool. The list was not comprehensive enough and as many as 8 of the disqualified athletes were not captured in that list.
“We raised the observation, compiled and forwarded to NADO/NADC a more comprehensive and updated list containing 137 names as at December, 2019. The purpose of this was to prevent the unfortunate incident experienced in Tokyo.
” When NADO/NADC was not forthcoming, probably as a result of lack of funds, we offered to pay for the tests and requested that the estimated costs be forwarded to us. Unfortunately, in keeping with the directives of the Ministry, we were met with silence, as the FMYSD refused to obey the High Court judgement which recognized me as the AFN President and the Appeal Court ruling, which upheld the High Court judgement.
“When we were unofficially informed that NADO/NADC had been instructed by the Minister not to relate or deal with us because we were not recognized by the FMYSD, our then Technical Director, Mr Sunday Adeleye went on air on the 25th of November 2020, to highlight the dangers awaiting our athletes and warned about the consequences of not carrying out those tests. His warning was published in major National Dailies but was described by the FMYSD as an “attention seeking” ploy by someone who does not understand AIU’s Rule 15.
“Consequently, we cannot be liable for this calamity as we duly informed NADO/NADC under the FMYSD about the need for our athletes, as contained in our list, to be frequently tested in keeping with AIU’s requirements. Rather than comply with these requirements, NADO/NADC under the FMYSD ignored our several warnings which was first communicated to them on the 13th of March, 2020 with several reminders. Our last communication on this issue was on the 8th of January 2021.
“Once again, we sympathize with the 10 disqualified athletes and promise that we would do everything within our powers to avert this from ever happening again. God Bless Nigeria.”