Nigerian top sprinter, Blessing Okagbare has reacted to the 10-year ban slammed on her by the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).
After being on suspension for over seven months with no clear direction on how her doping case will be adjudicated, the AIU finally came hard on Okagbare with an unprecedented 10-year ban on a first-time offender.
It now appears that Okagbare may be challenging this lengthy ban as she hinted her lawyers are already studying the AIU decision ahead of their next line of action
“My attention has been drawn to the statement issued by the AIU regarding its disciplinary panel decision. My lawyers are currently studying it for our next line of action which we will inform you soon.🙏🙏❤ –,“ Okagbare wrote on her Facebook page.
The AIU in a statement issued on Friday explained why Okagbare was severely punished with a 10-year ban instead of the 4-year ban which most times is the maximum punishment often meted out to erring athletes.
The AIU statement read in part: “The sole arbitrator adjudicating the case concluded that the athlete’s use of multiple prohibited substances as part of an organised doping regimen in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic Games was egregious conduct that amounted to aggravating circumstances under the Rules thereby warranting an additional period of ineligibility on top of the standard four-year sanction.”
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It added: “The sole arbitrator also recognised the AIU’s right to carry out investigations, including the imaging of electronic devices, and to impose sanctions when an athlete refuses to co-operate with an investigation and thereby frustrates the AIU’s ability to fulfil its mandate to protect the integrity of the sport of athletics. In this instance, the sole arbitrator concluded that the athlete’s refusal to cooperate had denied the AIU the opportunity to discover evidence of possible further rule violations by her as well possible violations of the rules by others, for which he imposed an additional sanction of five years.”
According to standard practises, the athlete has the right to appeal against the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 30-days.
“For the reasons set out, The Tribunal:
“Finds the ADRVs contrary to Rules 2.1 and 2.2 ADR proved;
“Imposes a period of Ineligibility of five years concurrently on each of the Rule 2.1 and Rule 2.2 ADRVs;
“Finds that the Athlete failed to comply with the Demand and cooperate with the AIU investigation in breach of Rules 5.7.3 and 5.7.7 ADRV and imposes a consecutive period of Ineligibility of five years; and
“Therefore, imposes a total period of Ineligibility of ten years which commences on 31 July 2021.
“The Tribunal also orders that the Athlete’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.
“There is no order for costs.”
Blessing Okagbare was last month identified in a indictment brought against a Texas therapist Eric Lira, her alleged supplier. The 41-year-old “naturopathic” therapist based in El Paso, was accused of supplying drugs to two athletes for the “purpose of corrupting” the Tokyo Games.