Banned Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare told the Athletics Integrity Unit, AIU, she neither evaded any test nor tampered with any evidence for the offence she has now been slammed with an additional one year of ineligibility.
On Monday, the AIU announced that Okagbare, the double sprint champion at the 2014 Commonwealth Games has been found to have committed additional anti-doping rule violations – specifically evading sample collection, and tampering or attempted tampering with the doping control process.
This decision is pursuant to Rule 2.3 (Evading Sample Collection) and Rule 2.5 (Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any part of Doping Control by an Athlete).
According to the AIU, the athlete’s whereabouts information registered for 13 June 2021 in ADAMS stated that she would be available for Testing between 05:00 and 06:00 at an address in Jacksonville, Florida.
‘On 13 June 2021, a Doping Control Officer was authorized by the AIU to undertake Out-of-Competition Testing on the athlete based on the whereabouts information provided for that day.
‘The DCO made attempts to locate the athlete at the Florida Address during the one-hour timeslot between 05:00 and 06:00, but the athlete could not be located,’ wrote the AIU.
Okagbare however insisted the Doping Control Officer was not telling the truth.
She claimed that she was present at the Florida Address between 05:00 and 06:00 on 13 June 2021 but alleged that the DCO had failed to knock on her door with sufficient force to wake her up and that the DCO had therefore failed to make a reasonable attempt to locate the Athlete for Testing.
Not satisfied with Okagbare’s explanation, the AIU commenced investigation into the whereabouts failure.
On 14 January 2022, the AIU issued Okagbare with a notice of investigation requesting her explanation for the circumstances of the whereabouts failure on 13 June 2021 in view of the exchange of messages with Eric Lira, the “naturopathic” therapist operating principally in El Paso, Texas, who had obtained various performance enhancing drugs and distributed those to certain athletes in advance of, and for the purpose of cheating at, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
On 21 January 2022, Okagbare provided her written explanation to the AIU. She maintained that she had not heard the DCO on 13 June 2021 (as previously stated in her explanation from 1 July 2021).
The Nigerian 100m record holder also confirmed that, to the best of her knowledge, she did not have the conversation with Lira.