Energetic, multiple medal-winning Nigerian athlete, Blessing Okagbare, emerged a controversial figure with an unforgettable stain on Nigeria’s international reputation in July 2021. The impact of Blessing Okagbare on Nigerian Athletics is so shocking that it will not be easily forgotten. It feels like a meteorite hitting the earth, or a fallen star.
Nor will the nation, and definitely her teammates, easily overcome the ‘free fall effect’ for whatever the reason it happened. Should we classify her final reaction as stubbornness, or some kind of politics was at play? It is difficult to answer that question.
Blessing Okagbare’s Mighty Blunder: Retracing the Steps
The World Athletics body – specifically the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) slammed the famous athlete with an 11-year ban. This was following three consecutive charges of grave misconduct on her part.
Firstly, regarding two failed drug tests. On the 19th of July 2021, a Human Growth Hormone was detected in her body fluid sample. That failed test effectively disqualified her from the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Women’s 100m event scheduled to be held that same day.
On an earlier occasion, recombinant erythropoietin (EPO) was detected in Okagbare’s body fluid sample collected out-of-competition on the 20th June 2021. The latter sample was collected in Nigeria; but actual EPO analysis was done on 29th of July 2021. Both Human Growth Hormone and EPO are banned substances on the 2021 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
The AIU also insisted that Okagbare had evaded a stipulated test on the 13th of June 2021. That was clearly the genesis of the entire drama. This followed FBI investigations into a string of text and voice messages. They were communications said to have been exchanged between Okagbare and a doctor named Eric Lira.
In the supposed communication, Okagbare had requested for drugs that included the banned substances from the said doctor. She did so for herself and a fellow athlete. However, she queried the doctor if it was safe to undergo tests following a particular dosage of those drugs. And she decided to “let them go, so it would be a missed test“, in her own purported words.
Okagbare: A Further Indictment
However, Okagbare insisted she was not guilty of evasion. That she was in her room on the 13th of June 2021. And she did not see, or hear of the visit of any Doping Control Officer (from the AIU). Neither did she hold any communication with the accused doctor, as was claimed.
Okagbare went ahead with her squad to compete in the 4x100m relay qualifying event at the Nigeria Olympic Trials. This took place six days after the supposed drug test evasion of 13th June 2021. And apparently the squad qualified for the 2021 World Championships.
This final act was seen as an outright refusal to cooperate with the athletics body; and clearly breaking the rules. Subsequently, the individual and relay results of the entire Nigerian team were disqualified from participating in the 2021 World Championships.
The AIU also concluded that Okagbare attempted to cheat at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (held in summer of 2021). That is, by taking those drugs to enhance her performance. She additionally failed to “produce relevant documents, records and electronic storage devices, which was issued to the athlete by the AIU on 15th September” (Athletics Integrity Unit online press release, October 2021). It earned her a one-year extension of her two successive 5-year bans, ending on 30th of July 2032.
Perhaps the athlete lacked necessary counsel or guidance back home. Not only has she practically ended her career in an inglorious way. She has also caused a setback for the careers of her team mates as well.
The Impact of Blessing Okagbare on Nigerian Athletics: Where She Started From
Born October 1988, Blessing Oghenewresem Okagbare-Oteghiri could be described as multi-talented. The athlete is impressive in her performances both as a long jump contestant, and a track-and-field specialist. Right from her high school days, Blessing competed in long jump, triple jump and high jump events at Nigerian schools championship competitions. And she came home with medals. She competed in the 2004 Nigerian National Sports Festival and won bronze medal for triple jump.
And from 2006 to 2019, Okagbare participated in various national, African, Olympic and World athletics events, and even set personal records. She holds the Women’s 100 metres Commonwealth Games record at 10.85 seconds. She was also the African 100 metres and long jump champion, a feat she achieved in 2010.
To date, Blessing Okagbare has won 12 Gold, 6 Silver, and 3 Bronze medals at various events. They include:
- 2014 Commonwealth Games: 100 metres
- 2014 Commonwealth Games: 200 metres
- 2011 Maputo All-Africa Games: Long Jump
- 2011 Maputo All-Africa Games: 4X100 metres relay
- 2015 Brazzaville All-Africa Games: 4X100 metres relay
- 2010 Nairobi African Championships: 100 metres
- 2010 Nairobi African Championships: Long jump
- 2010 Nairobi African Championships: 4X100 metres relay
- 2014 Marrakesh African Championships: 100 metres
- 2014 Marrakesh African Championships: 4X100 metres relay
- 2018 Asaba African Championships: 4X100 metres relay
Time would not permit us to outline all of Blessing Okagbare’s achievements in this article.
The athlete’s list of triumphs does not end there. Here are a list of Okagbare’s personal best records over the years in the world of athletics:
- 60 metres dash: 7.10 seconds
- 100 metres dash: 10.79 seconds (African Senior record, July 2023 to June 2016)
- 200 metres dash: 22.04 seconds
- Long jump: 7.00 metres
- Triple jump: 14.13 metres (African Under-20 record)
Blessing Okagbare and Nigerian Athletics: Any Lesson Learnt?
The resulting saga of famed athlete, Blessing Okagbare’s fall before the World Athletics body points at Nigeria’s credibility itself. What Nigerian sports authorities failed to monitor at home, has subsequently damaged our stand before the international community.
For years, Nigerian athletes have complained bitterly about low pay, inadequate training facilities, and limited coaching help. This is in addition to poor support from the federal government. To even represent the country at international events is not longer attractive, nor are the athletes treated well in some cases.
Perhaps the federal government and the Ministry of Sports could have averted such disgrace. If they took the welfare of athletes in Nigeria serious enough, it could have been different altogether. Thoughtless violation of rules, including anti-doping rules could have been seriously minimized – or even prevented before going for international competitions.
We sincerely wish the impact of Blessing Okagbare on Nigerian Athletics had been the other way round. She would have probably lived and died a legend, celebrated into generations to come.
You may not republish, reproduce, or redistribute any content on this website either in whole or in part without due permission or acknowledgment.
Proper acknowledgment includes, but not limited to;
(a) LINK BACK TO THE ARTICLE in the case of re-publication on online media,
(b) Proper referencing in the case of usage in research, magazine, brochure, or academic purposes,.
All contents are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1996 (DMCA).
The images, except where otherwise indicated, are taken directly from the web, if some images were inserted by mistake violating the copyright, please contact the administrator for immediate removal.
We publish all content with good intentions. If you own this content & believe your copyright was violated or infringed, please contact us at [firstname.lastname@example.org] for immediate removal.