After ten of her athletes were declared ineligible to compete at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics Games by the Athletics Integrity Unit, the image of Nigeria suffered further battering yesterday when some of the athletes took to the streets of Tokyo to protest their fate.
While other countries were celebrating heroic feats and struggling for more medals in Tokyo, Team Nigeria‘s situation took a turn for the worse as the athletes protested the ‘shame’ brought upon the country by negligent sports administrators.
Ten of the country’s athletes were disqualified from taking part in the Olympic Games due to their failure to undertake the mandatory three out-of-competition tests expected of athletes taking part in a competition of this magnitude.
The Sports Ministry had labelled those affected as ‘alternate and foreign student-athletes, whose tests did not meet with sample collection and analysis standards’.
This has not gone down well with the affected athletes who then staged a protest to register their displeasure.
During Friday’s protest, the athletes carried various placards with inscriptions that read: “We are not just alternate but are potential medalists”, “All we wanted to do is to compete,” “Why should we suffer for someone’s negligence?”
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria, (AFN); the ministry of youth and sports development and the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC are all complicit in this national embarrassment brought on Nigeria.
These bodies were saddled with ensuring that the athletes affected undergo the tests in the build-up to the Olympics as prescribed by the World Athletics rules.
Another sore point of Nigeria’s participation at the Tokyo Olympics was the issue of Samsung Galaxy phones issued as souvenirs to all accredited athletes by Samsung, a major sponsor of the International Olympic Committee. The souvenirs meant for the disqualified athletes were held back by Nigerian officials. But after pressure from the affected athletes, Nigeria Olympic Committee officials said they sought the approval of the IOC before releasing the phones to them.
ALSO READ: AFN: Our athletes not banned for drugs
According to the NOC, the IOC approved that the 10 Nigerian athletes receive Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
“The letter of approval for their release was signed by Jonas Brun, Junior Project Manager, NOC Relations/ NOC Services,” the release by NOC stated.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has stepped in to stem further crisis by addressing the issues that have arisen concerning Team Nigeria athletes.
According to the Director Federation of Elites athletes Department Dr Simon Ebhojiaye, “the Ministry is abreast of the situation on ground and addressing them. Payment of various allowances commenced since last week and it’s ongoing. The Ministry is looking into some of the issues raised by the athletes and they are being addressed as quickly as possible.
“The Honourable Minister on Thursday morning in a meeting spoke directly with the 10 track & Field athletes who will not be competing and assured them of their welfare. He apologized to them for the unfortunate development that led to their exclusion and promised that it would be fully investigated.
In the same vein, the Minister intervened over the IOC packs for the athletes. Working with the NOC, the Minister and NOC President on Friday morning were able to secure approval. No official of Team Nigeria or NOC took away the entitlements of any athlete as was being wrongly reported.
“Therefore the issue over the phone was resolved administratively according to the IOC Rule and guidelines. Team Nigeria officials acted in line with IOC standards and as soon as approval was received the right thing was done.
“IOC approved that the 10 Nigerian athletes receive Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
The letter of approval for their release was signed by Jonas Brun, Junior Project Manager, NOC Relations/ NOC Services. On the phone from Samsung the letter read:
“Regarding your athletes that will not participate in competitions in Tokyo in light of the latest information received, I confirm that you can still go ahead and give phones to the athletes”.
The phones which were delivered to all NOCs at the Games Village was in order for them to benefit from all important information included in the Athlete365website and also to comply with requirements set forth in the Playbooks, in particular the download and use of the apps required by the Japanese authorities.