By Philips Adefioye
Former Athletics Federation of Nigeria. AFN. President, Dan Ngerem has described as regrettable the taint of Damola Osayomi, who has so much potential, with the use of banned drug.
Ngerem in an exclusive interview with Vanguard Sports said Osayomi, one of the athletes brought up by coach Akinyemi, is immensely talented.
He said that an athlete with potentials needs to be natured, supported and needs to have all the necessary provisions but often the country is characterised by planlessness
He emphasised that he would not condemn Osayomi because the National Sports Commission, NSC, failed to honour her after winning many laurels for the country in the Olympic Games, African Athletics championship and other championships.
“It is regrettable that Damola Osayomi who has so much potential would be caught in drug abuse. It is totally regrettable. She has talent, one of the athletes brought up by coach Akinyemi, fondly known as ‘Erin’, the same person that brought up Seun Ogunkoya. Remember they are all from Ekiti. I remember correctly that I was one of the people who pushed Osayomi to stardom because she was dropped by the coaching crew then. We realized she was better than those who were in the Nigerian team.
“No doubt about it, Damola has potentials. As it is in this country being a potential is not enough in today’s world. You have to nurture a potential athlete and support him or her. Take a quintessential example. Damola, very good athlete, tutored by a very good coach ,a grassroots coach and supported by the AFN to stardom and that is the much they can do.
But what has the country done for her? What has the NSC done for her? Why I do not condemn any athlete is because you are not only destroying the image of your country but you are destroying your life because there is life after sport. The question is, what have we done for Damola? This is an athlete who won us a medal at the Beijing Olympics and up till today, it is only the footballers that this country has welcome.
“Damola is schooling in America, have we given her a scholarship? Not to my knowledge, have we supported her, not to my knowledge, was there plan for the world championship in Berlin, Germany ?
“They went to Berlin with zero funding from Nigeria, any support there? Subsequently they went to African senior championship in Kenya, was there any support? It was zero support. They went to Kenya and came back and the approval was still lying in the sports ministry. They went to Berlin and returned, the approval was still lying in the Ministry.”
Continuing, the businessman said that “To the best of our knowledge there was no support and preparation to the Commonwealth Games, we were just confused with the orchestrated confusion of football to the extent that some of us said that we should re-christen the National Sports Commission the National Football Commission because no other sport was given attention except football.
“Damola is a quintessential example of what is wrong with our sports. As you can see, a young talent from Ekiti, brought up by a grassroots coach who has been abandoned by the way to nurture herself.
We pushed her to stardom and she has gotten their and Nigeria has withdrawn the support and now she is cascading to failure as it were. Now she is a substance abuser, she is a drug taker and this will diminish all her achievements. And also do remember when we don’t give these athletes support, they are carrying our collective destiny in their hands when they run.
“Now that she has been disgraced, it is the whole of Nigeria that is being disgraced. Now we should go back to the basics and support our young athletes in all sports not in football alone.
The last couple of Sports Ministers have been Ministers of football as far as I am concerned because it is only football we talk about, it is only football we raise money for, it is only football we pay attention to, it is only football that plays friend lies, it is only football that had presidential dinner. Where are the other sports,” he queried.
Ngerem said that the substance she was caught with joined the list of banned substances in 2009 and she probably was not aware of it. Remember she said she wanted to see the B sample. Remember that another Nigerian hurdler was also caught for the same substance, you can see a trace. The IAAF doping officials are not stupid, they know that Nigerian system is abusing drugs, probably the athletes did not know that the drug has entered the banned list in 2009.”
He argued that there is supposed to be a laboratory in the country that is supported by multinational institutions around the world but nobody knows what has happened to the Lab and one has to realize that drugs taken by athletes is a world wide phenomenon. He recalled the case of Marion Jones who was caught after many years of drug use and was also jailed by the American system
Ngerem opined that what can be done in Nigeria to halt drug cheat was to be proactive.
“During my era what the board always did was to test the athletes from time to time. Apart from the provision of the IAAF, we also put in place education system for the athletes, list of banned substances and some medical support preparatory to major championships because you must support them and put the fear of God in them. Athletes will cheat when you give them the chance to do that but the thing to do is to be proactive.
There was supposed to be a Lab in Nigeria that should be supported by the Multinational institutions around the world. I don’t know what has happened to the Lab but we must also realise that athletes being caught for cheating is a worldwide phenomenon.
You remember the celebrated Marion Jones who was caught subsequently after many years of drug abuse and was jailed.
If the Lab in Abuja was on and if we have any form of camping or training tour, these athletes should have random test up to the point where they will be representing Nigeria.
You should be proactive, engage them, educate them and make sure that the bad eggs are thrown out. I remember also during my time, it was during the Mobil athletes championship when we were about to choose athletes to present the country, I simply said we are going to take blood samples before the championship. Most of our star athletes ran away from that competition, even some that brought foreign coaches, parading themselves as super stars, they disappeared from the field.
Our athletes need to be educated from time to time, proper preparation and provision should been given to them,” Ngerem advised.