Nigerian Olympic medallist Blessing Okagbare banned from athletics for ten years over doping violations

Blessing Okagbare has been handed a ten-year ban after an investigation into multiple doping violations.

The Nigerian athlete won silver in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics and was provisionally suspended ahead of competing in the semi-finals of the 100-metres in Tokyo last summer.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) charged Okagbare in October over her use of human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO) and over her refusal to cooperate with investigators.

On Friday, the AIU announced that a disciplinary tribunal comprised of a sole arbitrator had imposed a ten-year ban – five years for the presence and use of multiple banned substances and five years for her refusal to cooperate.

The arbitrator concluded Okagbare’s refusal to cooperate had denied the AIU the opportunity to discover evidence of possible rule violations by others.

Brett Clothier, the head of the AIU, said: “We welcome the decision of the disciplinary tribunal; a ban of ten years is a strong message against intentional and coordinated attempts to cheat at the very highest level of our sport.

“This is an outcome that was driven by our intelligence-led target testing as well as our commitment to investigate the circumstances behind a positive test.”

The arbitrator concluded Okagbare was ‘Athlete 1’ mentioned in an FBI complaint against a therapist called Eric Lira. The charges brought against Lira are the first under new anti-doping laws introduced in the United States.

Friday’s reasoned decision published by the AIU stated that Victor Burgos, the United States Anti-Doping Agency chief investigative officer, wrote to the AIU in October to confirm that the FBI had done imaging on Okagbare’s mobile phone.

He said the phone “contained text messages in which Ms Okagbare discusses procuring and using human growth hormone and EPO” with a contact listed as ‘Eric Lira Doctor’.

Burgos added: “The messages also indicate that Ms Okagbare procured, or attempted to procure, prohibited substances for at least one other person, an athlete preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Track and Field Trials, scheduled for July 2021.”

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