Nigerian athletes protest against administrators as Olympics dreams tumble

There is little or nothing to celebrate for some Nigerian athletes who were at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after their dreams of performing at the World’s biggest sports games tumbled.

Nigerian athletes are protesting local authorities’ “incompetence” during preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

Some Nigerian athletes, who were disqualified from participating in the Games, were seen on the streets of Japan on Friday expressing their anger against the sports administrators in their country.

Blessing Okagbare, one of Nigeria’s brightest hope in the games, is leading the pack of those speaking out against the apparent mismanagement.

“I have said it before and I will say it again. If you do not know the sport, not passionate about it/us (the athletes), then you have no business there as an administrator,” Okagbare said while reacting to the decision of the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent body created by World Athletics.

“The sport system in Nigeria is so flaw(ed) and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damages.”

The country’s highest-ranking table tennis player Quadri Aruna is miffed at the country’s sports administrators’ treatment of athletes.

Aruna’s anger is evident in the three Instagram posts he posted on Friday. He claimed that he has been threatened to be expelled from Team Nigeria’s camp at the Olympics.

“Athletes were been short paid and nobody should complain,” Aruna said in one of the Instagram posts.

“If Honourable minister don’t (sic) come and address the athletes, these officials will spoil all the good things you have been doing.”

More Troubles for Nigeria

Ten Nigerian athletes were among 18 competitors from “high-risk” nations who have been barred from the Tokyo Olympics after failing to meet requirements for out-of-competition drug testing, World Athletics’ independent anti-doping arm said Thursday.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said the athletes concerned had failed to comply with rules introduced in 2019 requiring those from countries deemed to be at the highest risk of doping — so-called “Category A” nations — to undergo three no-notice out-of-competition tests in a 10-month period leading up to a major event.

Nigeria’s sports ministry said it “regrets the unfortunate development of 10 Nigerian track and field athletes not meeting the testing conditions of the Athletics Integrity Unit.

The sports ministry said it made “all necessary efforts…to bring the athletes to date with compliance to the WADA regulations by the Ministry.”

But Okagbare disagrees.

“They (administrators) were busy fighting over power, exercising their pride over Puma contract/ kits forgetting their major responsibility “THE ATHLETES”,” Okagbare said.

Aruna blamed the authorities for his early exit from the Olympics. Haruna crashed out in the third round after losing to Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi 2-4 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Tuesday, July 27.

“You wanted me to perform but you removed the coach that qualified me to the quarter-final in Rio games,” Haruna said in an Instagram post.

Recurring issues
The situation is not new to many Nigerian sportsmen and women who have been there for a while.

Earlier in the week, Nigerian defender Leon Balogun criticised the country’s sports authorities over the poor administration of the team.

His points of criticism of football administration in Nigeria – nonpayment of players, match bonuses, unorganised travel plans – are often identified as leading causes of underperformance by Nigerian teams in football and other sports.

Okagbare is disappointed that the same situation keeps happening over the years.

“It’s sad that this cycle keeps repeating itself and some people will come out to say I am arrogant for speaking my [sic] truth. It is my career,” Okagbare said.

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