Blessing Okagbare’s Odium

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

One of the chief reasons sports is so exhilarating is that is provides a level playing ground, levels the playing field in many ways, and gives even underdogs the opportunity to mount the kind of upsets that live with fans and bookmakers forever.

In the power that sports have to act as an equalizer and make friends out of foes if only for brief periods in pursuit of something higher, something more ideal, something more noble, sports hold the almost unmatched ability to bring people together and heal old wounds. Multiple events in Nigeria, Africa and across the

For example, in spite of tribe or creed unite in support whenever the Super Eagles of Nigeria play. Because sports act as such a powerful force for good and a poster child for transparency as everything is usually in the public eye, whatever aids cheating is usually greeted with so much outrage and the athlete in question usually has their reputation tarnished forever.

In 2008, in faraway Beijing China, a 19-year-old Blessing Okagbare brought so much joy to Nigerian hearts when she jumped to a silver medal in the womens long jump event at the Summer Olympics Though the Nigerian Dream team led by Samson Siasia was to win silver when it finished as runners up to Argentina in the final of the men soccer tournament, however, Okagbares feat powered her into history books of Nigerian sports. In a country whose size is yet to translate into Olympic medals, Okagbares victory was such a sweet relief. Since then, she has been one of Nigerias more recognizable athletes, flying the country`s flag in multiple athletics competitions around the globe.

Nigeria was represented at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics held in Japan last year. But events surrounding the Nigerian contingent at the games soon descended into a farce when some athletes were disqualified at the games for what they adjudged to be no fault of theirs. They subsequently protested to further air Nigeria`s dirty laundry on the international stage.

There was also the mildly embarrassing drama with the distribution of mobile phones given participating athletes by one of the sponsors of the games. It was also during that time that Okagbare was first suspended for failing a drugs test.

On February 18,2022, the Athletics Integrity Unit handed a 10-year ban to the 33-year-old Nigerian queen of tracks for multiple breaches of World Athletics Anti-Doping rules. The ban from athletics which would commence on 30 July 2021 followed a hearing at the Athletics Integrity Unit that found Okagbare to have taken both human growth hormone and EP0 over an extended period and refusing to cooperate with the investigation. Though she has hinted at appealing the ban, if it stands it would most probably mean she has ended an otherwise glittering career in disgrace.

Cheating has always been a feature of the human reality. The desire to circumvent rules has always been part of those who have to compete against others for any accolade. Because the competition everywhere is always ever so intense, people look for any and every opportunity to get one over the competition.

But because sports acts as such a powerful equalizer, it abhors cheating in any way. That is why when there is ever any allegation of cheating, it is always met with widespread condemnation. It is always why athletes are adjured to play clean and stay away from cheating of any sort.

Yet, for many athletes, the way to go is to engage in doping.This they do to gain advantage over others. In the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for example, the extent of state-sponsored doping by Russia was laid bare to shock the world.

Even as many aspects of Nigerian sports continue to lurch about in underdevelopment, there is no doubt that sports in Nigeria can do without the ignominy of doping.

Kene Obiezu,

Keneobiezu@gmail.com

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