Nigerian athletes staged a protest in Tokyo after 10 of them were disqualified from taking part in the track and field events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The protesting athletes carried placards with the inscription “Why should we suffer for someone else’s negligence”, “All we wanted to do was compete” and “We are not just alternates but potential medalists.”
“We are not just alternates, but potential medallists”, “Dreams shattered”, “10 out of 23, we can’t continue this way” were also some of the inscriptions on the placards carried by the protesting Nigerian athletes.
The athletes who protested are Ruth Usoro, Favour Ofili, Annette Echikunwoke, Chioma Onyekwere, Glory Patrick, Chidi Okezie, Tima Godbless, Rosemary Chukwuma, Yinka Ajayi and Knowledge Omovoh.
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The PUNCH had reported that the Athletics Integrity Unit disqualified Ruth Usoro, Favour Ofili and eight other athletes after they failed to conduct the mandatory three out-of-competition tests before the Olympics.
The Nigerian athletes represented 50 per cent of the total number of athletes disqualified across the world for violating OCT regulations.
The athletes further took to social media to express their disappointment after the protest.
“Hi everyone. It’s with outmost disappointment I share the news that I won’t be competing at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after coming this far.
“Firstly, I give God Almighty all the thanks for the journey thus far and all my accomplishments this season prior to the Olympics. Thanks to my family all my fans and all those that intercede for me in their prayers,” Ofili wrote on Instagram.
“I feel it’s right that everyone out there knows the truth. I was punished for the crime committed by those who are supposed to be looking out for me because of incompetence and selfishness.
“I worked really hard to qualify for the Olympics and in the end, this is the payment I get in return, ineligible to compete.
“Your negligence can’t demoralise me for I know God has greater plans for me.
“Forgiveness is of the Lord. I pray God gives me the grace and enablement to do so as soon as possible.
“Thanks, everyone and God bless,” Ofili wrote.
Echikunwoke – African record holder in the women’s hammer event – also wrote how she got the news of her not competing at the Olympics on her 25th birthday, describing it as the most emotionally exhausting time of her life.
“On my 25th birthday, I was officially informed that I cannot compete at the Tokyo 2020ne Olympics due to the negligence of the federation I was set to compete for.
“I can’t even begin to explain how heartbroken I am. It honestly feels like a fever dream. To think of all the hours of throwing sessions, hundreds of hard lifts, all the moments when my body aches in pain and reminding myself ‘it’ll be worth it’, just to keep pushing on, sacrificing time with loved ones… and all I’m left with is this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This has been the most mentally and emotionally exhausting time of my life,” Echikunwoke said.
She also accused the Athletics Federation of Nigeria of leaving them in the dark as regards the testing issues.
“TO BE CLEAR: The African Federation of Nigeria did not go through the processes to set up proper testing for us athletes. They left us in the dark about this whole drug testing issue until the last minute where we were left helpless. We cannot let anything like this happen again to athletes, devastating dreams and crushing opportunities.
“In all of this, I’m still trusting Him who brought me to this point in the first place. I don’t understand divinely why this happened, but I do know all things work for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. I know God has called me to do what I’m doing, not just for me, but for the glory of His Kingdom.
“To my teammates and friends competing, I’m rooting for you heavy, I love you, thank you for your support,” she added.
Meanwhile, the track and field events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics started on Friday with Blessing Okagbare and Grace Nwokocha qualifying for the semi-finals of the women’s 100m.