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Okagbare banned 10 years for doping

The Athletics Federation of Nigeria was left in shock over the 10-year Athletics Integrity Union AIU ban on sprinter Blessing Okagbare for doping and refusing to co-operate with the investigation.

According to the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) in a statement released on Friday, Okagbare, who won silver in the long jump at the Beijing 2008 Games was found guilty after an investigation found her culpable.

AFN President, Tonobok Okowa when contacted by The SunSports on Saturday maintained that the federation would first study the ruling at a meeting due this weekend before a formal reaction would be made to the public on Monday.

Before now, Okagbare had been provisionally suspended last year after testing positive for human growth hormone before the Tokyo Olympics and later hit with three separate anti-doping charges. The 33-year-old had competed in the 100m heats in Tokyo on July 31 and was due to run in the semi-final before being suspended.

"The Disciplinary Tribunal banned Okagbare for a total of 10 years, five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to co-operate with the AIU's investigation into her case," AIU said in a statement.

Okagbare also won silver in the long jump at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, while also securing a bronze in the 200m at the same event.

"We welcome the decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal; a ban of 10-years is a strong message against intentional and co-ordinated attempts to cheat at the very highest level of our sport," added Brett Clothier, head of the AIU.

The tribunal also orders that Okagbare’s results from and including 20 June 2021 are disqualified with all resulting consequences including forfeiture of any medals, titles, ranking points and prize and appearance money with the period of ineligibility commencing on 31 July 2021.

The ban however, can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), located in Laussane, Switzerland

In January 2022, US prosecutors had charged a Texas man with providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing in last summer's Tokyo Olympics, including star Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare.

Eric Lira, 41, of El Paso, is the first person to be charged under a new US anti-doping law governing international sports competitions.

Lira was also accused of conspiring to violate drug misbranding and adulteration laws.

"It's not winning if you take illegal substances - it's cheating," FBI Assistant

Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement.

The criminal complaint identifies 33-year-old Okagbare only as "athlete 1", but it includes details, including her performances in specific races, that make it clear she was one of Lira's clients.

"When it's time to say anything, I will and it will be worth the wait," Okagbare tweeted last year.

The criminal complaint alleges that Lira, a kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor, brought "misbranded" versions of the drugs to the United States from Central and South America before distributing them to athletes.

Federal authorities searched Okagbare's cellphone as she was returning to the United States from Tokyo and found she had frequently communicated with Lira over an encrypted app, according to the complaint.

"Is it safe to take a test this morning?" Okagbare wrote in one message to Lira, according to the complaint.

"Remember I took it Wednesday and then yesterday again. I wasn't sure so I didn't take a test."

In another exchange, Okagbare wrote to Lira that she had just run the 100m in 10.63 seconds. "Eric my body feel so good," she wrote. "Whatever you did is working so well."

"You are doing your part and you will be ready to dominate," Lira wrote to the athlete.

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