“Please tell our compatriots (in the Diaspora) that we just have to clean up our sports.” “Nobody is the object of a witch-hunt.” Since the announcement of the four years sanction on Lee Evans and a life ban on Raul Abbas, a few weeks ago, by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Medical and Anti-Doping Committee led by Dr. Ken Anugweje, there have been questions on the development, some doubting the transparency of the exercise.
Dr. Ken Anugweje put everything in the perspective I felt should be shared with Nigerians. It was his response to Nigerians in Diaspora as captured by SADIQ ABDULLAHI, Florida.
The context: In 2010, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Weightlifting Federation were out of compliance of the World Anti-Doping Code and the Nigerian National Anti-Doping Rules and Regulations.
The popular sentiment then was that we needed to put in place proper mechanisms to check and balance the abuse of illegal substance, and to make sure the international embarrassment does not happen again. In 2012, the NSC identified six sports as priority sports.
They are: Athletics, Boxing, Shooting, Weightlifting, Wrestling, and Football. These sports have the comparative advantage and are most likely to win medals at both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. Doping may undermine our medal winning chances if nothing is done now.
When Dr. Ken Anugweje and his team went public with their decision banning for life Abas Rauf and Lee Evans being suspended for four years, there were mixed reactions on the verdict.
Opinions, assumptions were expressed everywhere, even in United States, suggesting that perhaps a big error in judgment had been made. Dr. Anugweje disagreed. He believed that the team which comprised of Dr Femi Ayorinde, National Doping Control Officer, Mr Eric Campbell, Athletics Performance Director, Mr James Eakyns, AFN Assistant Secretary and himself as the Chairman, followed all due process.
Dr. Anugweje was the Medical and Anti-Doping Delegate to the Africa Youth Athletics Championship, Warri where the case originated and had the jurisdiction and authority to superintend over the case.
Dr. Anugweje argued that a third party, the IAAF, was consulted. “IAAF upheld the sanction on the coaches but suggested a stiffer penalty for the athlete.”
“Due diligence was followed as directed by WADA and IAAF. Due process was followed. He (Evans) was given a fair hearing, by the AFN and based on our findings, we made our report and he was rightly sanctioned. AFN conducted an investigation in Calabar in 2013 on those athletes on the AFN profile list or those who set new national records.
“It is about the song and not the singer! Evans can still appeal the verdict if he has additional information.”
Asked to respond to Mr. Enefiok Udo-Obong’s allegation that ‘’a top AFN official’’ asked that a top female 400 metres athlete should not be tested. Dr. Anugweje said Udo-Obong’s was right.
“I am that AFN official and here’s the reason: At the All Nigeria Athletics Championships in Calabar, 2013, we had to test athletes as usual. Doping control starts with Test Distribution Planning and we had targeted and paid for the testing of the top 4 finishers in the sprints (because of the relays), two each in the jumps, throws and middle distances. Because of tight budgets, this is prioritized.
We do not reckon with long distances. Unexpectedly, however, two new national records were set in the 20 kilometers walk race for the male and female events, and by IAAF regulations, these athletes must be drug-tested before new records can be ratified. I pleaded for a long time before the Doping Control Officer agreed to accommodate just one more test.
I took the well-considered decision to substitute one planned test with one additional test because one of the top 4 in the women’s 400 was competing with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and which had been confirmed by our tests in Warri the previous week. Unanimous decision was reached based on the available information and discussion.
The panel found it highly likely that the said Athlete had used a Prohibited Substance, and proceeded with the case as an asserted anti-doping rule violation in accordance with the disciplinary procedures set out in the IAAF Anti-Doping Rule 38.”