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All failure and no excuse

The most striking feature I gathered from Sani Ndanusa’s reported reflections at the reception last week of Team Nigeria from the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi was, perhaps, the unfortunate drug incident that marred our glittery outing and which denied us the track gold medal taken by a female sprinter.

Ndanusa, until lately sports minister, and now president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, was (understandably) reacting to the country’s helplessness in the face of stringent anti-drug law, and the penalty taken against the defaulter.

The anti-doping law was introduced into sports as a means of checkmating supposed intending cheats seeking tainted glory through deliberate ingestion into the system of performance-enhancing substances readily available in today’s world of modern science and technology. But many have been the cases where otherwise innocent athletes have equally been indicted and punished for offences traceable to prescriptions by administering medical personnel for treatment of ailments.

It explains just how helpless an indicted athlete and his/her country can be, even with all the genuine excuses available. Thus far, this has been the case with our female sprinter.

Someone, probably, forgot to whispers into the ears of the ex-minister the case of the Games boxing squad which for the umpteenth time returned home empty from a major regional sports fiesta. Or, the matter wasn’t considered worthy of reflection, after all.

Honestly, I do not see how a single case of suspected doping crime and resultant imposition can be classified as a subject of higher national consideration than the issue of the total eclipse of amateur boxing that remains credited with being the pioneer medal-churning sport in Nigeria.

Nevertheless, I must concede Sani Ndanusa and countless others reacted perfectly in consonance with the trend that has dominated the nation’s sports horizon for more than a decade running. For, while a dent on the rising profile of a proven female track star came as a shock and surprise to us all, same cannot be said of the total blackout in our boxing squad.

After all, here’s our amateur boxing, with all its fame and an illustrious past dating back to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, that has chosen to relinquish its majesty and occupy a distant backseat in today’s roll-call of sports in Nigeria. Ndanusa and others who have read the script knew perfectly well there was nothing to expect from boxing in New Delhi. It is the only entry among the seven disciplines entered for the Games that has no excuse to offer for its failure.

I hear from the grapevine that boxing is the next sport seriously being considered for dropping in upcoming global fiestas. And why not? If our best effort in New Delhi was still not within sight of a Games’ medal, then why waste time and energy going to the more prestigious, more competitive, more demanding Olympics and Worlds?

Yes, all 150 million Nigerians, minus George Taylor, Obisia Nwankpa and – wait a minute – Idika Nsofor, knew and saw well in advance that we would not come home with a medal from India. The three gentlemen remain the only persons who believe this country can pick medals even if we set up camps deep in the mosquito-infested Niger Delta swamps, followed by a training Jamboree in Cuba, 90 days away from any Games.

I’m certain George Taylor and his team of collaborators realizes that they can find no excuse to explain their failure in India. Simply put, they had planned to fail.

Yet, I must say – in partial defense of the incumbent Nigeria Amateur Boxing Association Chairman – George is only contending with problems pre-dating his arrival in the house, but which he gladly inherited without making any effort to correct.

You see, success in the sport of amateur boxing is based, largely on calendar preparation involving training and competition during a four-year cycle. It is like stringing together a programme of events kicking off at the end of one Global/Regional/Continental fiesta to the next one. There is little evidence here of any such programme initiated from the 2006 edition of the Commonwealth Games – to include the All-Africa Games and Beijing Olympics of 2008, as well as the Worlds.

A properly co-ordinated NABA would have been expected to take full advantage of the nation’s expansive political structure to prosecute its programmes successfully. In a present-day Nigeria of 775 Local Governments, 36 States and Federal Capital Territory, and Six Geo-Political zones, Taylor should be able to create more than enough domestic competitions to go with the numerous categories of international tournaments our boxers need to attend to be ready for any global, Regional and Continental events.

Unfortunately for George Taylor, there isn’t much evidence of reforms in the House he inherited from ex-Governor Lucky Igbinedion and Brig General Ayeni who between them supervised the system in which the technical wing (coaches/trainers) was made subject to programmes drawn up by the Administration.

To compound this glaring anomaly, is the fact that coaches who should know better are mere civil servants out to protect their jobs first, than protest such anomaly.


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