The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare has vowed to unravel the circumstances that led to the ‘avoidable’ disqualification of 10 athletes from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Dare, in a statement he signed, said the ministry did everything possible to ensure the disqualified athletes achieved their dreams of being Olympians.
“First is the mishap resulting in 10 Team Nigeria athletes ruled ineligible to compete for missing their mandatory out-of-competition tests. When notice of this ruling got to me, I immediately mobilised my team and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria leadership to see how the situation could be salvaged,”
“We mounted a vigorous appeal process with the Athletics Integrity Unit and had the team members complete the tests. However, timing became the critical issue . Despite our energetic appeal, the deciding committee made its announcement which gave no latitude to our team members for what was only an inadvertent lapse.
“As minister, I ensured that all necessary approvals were done so that all requisite tests and exams could be timely completed. For me, this unfortunate incident is most painful because these athletes had prepared long and hard and also in view of the challenging circumstances due to COVID-19.
“As the minister, I must bear some institutional responsibility for this lapse. I also had to depend and expect that each person in the long and often technical chain will perform their role expeditiously and with precision.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, someone failed in their responsibility and as Minister, I bear the responsibility and brunt of the criticism. But that is not enough. I must move to ensure that Nigeria never experiences another such moment.”
He added, “I have ordered a full investigation that will not only uncover what happened but will also, recommend a process where such lapses can never occur in the future and initiate leveraging compliance monitoring technology to guardrail this.
“I have personally apologised to the affected athletes. Here and now, I personally apologise to all Nigerians for this ineligibility episode. The AFN has also taken responsibility and apologised to the athletes and to Nigerians,” Dare added.
Dare also said to ensure such an incident does not happen again, the new Medical and Anti-doping Commission has been established.
The sports minister also said the country would do everything to support Blessing Okagbare as she appeals her provisional ban after testing positive to Human Growth Hormone.
On the performance of the athletes which was overshadowed by the controversy generated by the $2.7m Puma kits deal, Dare said the ministry would investigate what transpired.