Nigerian veteran weightlifter, Ruth Ogbeifo, has laid the blame for Chika Amalaha’s weight-loss drug use mishap at the ongoing Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on the doorsteps of Nigerian weightlifting coaches, describing them as incompetent.
“I feel very sad about this development and that is why I had to rush in from London to see our weightlifters. I sympathise abjectly with Chika. She is just a young girl, very strong and promising in the sport and did not deserve to be brought into this kind of situation.
I blame our coaches squarely for her predicament. As I see it, the issue is about meeting the right weight and she couldn’t have accessed drugs all on her own. I understand she competed about three months ago in Mauritius and she won without drugs, so how come she used those drugs now?
Even if she got them herself, it is the duty of the coaches to know whatever medications their athletes are using and to research to be sure if the drugs contain banned substances.
“The problem is that the coaches are lazy, incompetent and do not qualify to handle national team athletes. The point is that maintaining the required weight in your class is a primary condition in weightlifting and one of the main tasks of a weightlifting coach.
You have to constantly monitor your athlete to be sure of what she is taking, what she is eating, what she is drinking in other to maintain a stable weight. There were times we had to stay very, very light on food for months.
A regular and well supervised programme assures that, but our coaches are just doing nothing. Coaching in weightlifting goes beyond telling athletes to bend down this way or hold their arms up this or that way. It is total supervision of the athlete which obviously was absent in this case.”
Ogbeifo is apprehensive about how the sports establishment may now relate with Amalaha from this point and advises that she should be consoled and encouraged rather than alienated.
“My biggest fear is how they will treat this little girl. She is strong and has passion for the sport but I fear that, as is the case in Nigeria, the authorities may discard her. I plead with them to console her and encourage her. She has a bright future and what happened is entirely not her fault. It is the coaches. The authorities have to find a way to make her forget about this incident and move on with focus on realising the place of her dream in weightlifting.”
On the future of weightlifting in Nigeria, Ogbeifo maintains that it has to start from the training of the coaches.
“We have a huge problem there. The coaches we have are not just up to it. First of all, they lack the training and experience. Many of them have not even won any medals in weightlifting and those that may have won need to be retrained and refreshed.
There is a huge difference between the coaches who handled us and how they handled us in our days, and what obtains now. Secondly, there is so much nepotism in the system. There are camps in Nigerian weightlifting and the coaches have the tendency to drop the best athletes for their favoured ones.
I know Nigerian weightlifters and there are times when I am alarmed to see that the best lifters have been left at home or discriminated against while average ones are called to camp and taken to competitions. That is also the reason why we are now beginning to see frequent cases of drug use.
The politics in weightlifting is very strong and the people outside including administrators may not know it. We need to do something about opening up the place for merit to prevail. That is the only way we can save our weightlifting.”