The usage of performance-enhancing drugs is also known in sports circles as doping. Performance enhancing drugs are prohibited within sport. Athletes who are found to have used such banned substances, either through a positive drugs test or public admission, receive a competition ban for a length of time which reflects the severity of the infraction they have committed. This lasts between six months and four years.
Athletes who are found to have banned substances in their possession, or who tamper with (or refuse to submit to) drug testing can also receive bans from the sport. Short competitive bans are also given to athletes who test positive for prohibited recreational drugs or minor stimulants which serve little performance-enhancing effects for competitors.
The sports body responsible for determining which substances are banned in sports is the World Anti-Doping Agency. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, do not allow athletes who have used performance-enhancing drugs to attend such events like the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games after a ban has been served.
Typically, any athlete who tests positive for banned substances after having served a previous ban receives a lifetime ban from the sport of athletics. Many high-profile sports people to have received doping bans have come from the sport of athletics, with significant past cases concerning Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Tim Montgomerry.
In Nigeria, we’ve had our own share of such high profile drug cases like Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, Chioma Ajunwa and Vivien Chukwuemeka. When such athletes are caught in the web, good federations will raise a support system structure that will help them learn to be clean and come out a better behaved athlete. This sort of structure is absent in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that a number of athletes who underwent state-sponsored doping programmes in East Germany between the 1960s and 1980s were competitors in swimming and athletics, although many of these did not receive bans due to a number of factors. Several Jamaican runners and Indian swimmers and wrestlers have recently been found guilty of using methylhexaneamine, which is widely used as a nasal decongestant, but also increases alertness and can aid weight loss.
Nigeria’s official drug supplier: In global world of athletics, this former fringe athlete is known and had been severally fingered to have supplied drugs to a lot of Nigerian athletes (caught and some escaped). His name returned like a decimal. He is officially in the Nigerian national team more like an endorsement of a drug courier in camp. I will be shocked if we come out of London without a drug case again. He was in camp in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi where we had three celebrated cases.
Folashade Abugan indicted the AFN and one individual (now an assistant coach to Innocent Egbunike), who supplies drugs to Nigerian athletes. She argued that she did not take drugs on her own and that it was to the knowledge of team doctors and other officials. A national team doctor had the issue in one of his official reports to the Federation.
There are many questions to be answered on this. Why would the AFN allow the individual to be in our national camp in the name of creating jobs for the boys where he can then sell drugs to athletes in the national camp?
Nigeria and the fight against drugs: Nigeria’s fight against drug cheating can at best be described as lukewarm. There has been no independent seminar or programme to educate athletes on the dangers or to promote a clean sport. No public relations attempt has been made by the National Olympic Committee, whose responsibility it is to enlighten the public on steps it has taken, if any at all, to ensure drug cheats in sports are discouraged or and disciplined.
During local competitions, which are avenues for anti-doping campaigns and the best avenue for educating athletes who are expected to become elite athletes, no attempt has been made in any sport competition to show support for clean athletes. At least, not in the last 20 years.
We have countless number of age group sporting competitions and we let them pass without taking the opportunity to put a word or two to the young sportsmen and women on the issues of drugs and it dangers. Many of them don’t even know.
The fact that many young athletes do not know about the illegality of some substances is an indictment of the NOC, which has a penchance to preach against drug use at press conferences. It is even worse with the sporting federations.
We also have repentant drug offenders within our sporting public who should be models of educating the young ones. The NOC and sports federations don’t probably know they should use them to educate others on the dangers these drugs and the shame it brings and the loss of financial rewards a cheat suffers.
We could even make it mandatory as punitive measures for athletes caught on drugs to speak to youths about it as a prerequisite to being accepted back to competition after their suspensions. This is where Folashade Abugan, Osayomi Oludamola, Vivian Chukwuemeka, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, Chioma Ajunwa, etc come in.
AFN, the hammer house of horror: By this time last year, 10 Nigerian athletes were serving various terms with the IAAF while the three in New Delhi were waiting to be banned. Of the 10 athletes under IAAF sanctions, four had completed their punishment but they could not go for the mandatory test that will confirm that they are clean.
The athletes had to do this on their own. The test costs N15,000 and these athletes do not have the money to undergo the test. They sometimes are subjected to terrible accounts of what they pass through in the hands of the AFN to get the test. Marian Adedun, Sidi Bayo, Ernest Ekanem, and Omolara Omotosho were the athletes expected to be off the hook if they can follow the procedure. Who knows if they are still under ban because they can’t afford the cost to do the mandatory test, especially if they are not in the good picture of the messianic lords who rule the federation.
The politics of WADA and Nigeria’s stupidity: Nigeria is a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a signatory of the World Anti-Doping code. WADA is a body set up to fight the scourge of doping malpractice in our sports. Through various government agencies and national Olympic bodies, WADA educates and attempts to scourge athletes off dangerous performance enhancing drugs. It invests in researches in science and medicine for new drugs, novel, easier and more efficient methods of testing. WADA is involved in education and athletes outreach, drug trafficking and investigations, doping control etc.
However Nigerian authorities’ unenthusiastic approach to dealing with the drug problems can be illustrated by the influence it plays in the international scene. Despite being the second largest financial contributor to WADA in Africa, we get zero influence on decisions and have no representative in the various WADA board and committees.
WADA is composed of a foundation board, executive committee and various sub-committees. The foundation board is the supreme decision-making body. It is composed of 38 members amongst whom there are six Africans, one from each of the following nations: Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Mauritius, Uganda and Zambia.
We have the executive committee. This is the ultimate policy-making body. They are responsible for the managing and running of the agency including the performance of activities and administration of assets. It consists of twelve members with three Africans: a South African, an Egyptian and an Algerian.
Finally, we have the sub-committees which act as advisory committees and provide guidance for WADA’s programmes. The various sub-committees are: Health, medical and research committee with 17 members including two Africans: a Cameroonian and a South African. This committee has four working
committees namely Banned list working committee (10 member and no African), Therapeutic Use exemption working committee (six members and no African), laboratory working committee (nine members and no African) and the Gene Doping panel with seven members and no African.
Ethical Issues Review panel. There are no African members in this four member panel. Finance and Administration committee. A Zambian is the only African in this nine-member committee.
Education committee: The African representative in this 13-member committee is a Malian.
Athletes committee: Namibia’s Frankie Fredricks is the only African in this 16-member club.
In addition to all these members, we have the African Regional headquarters of WADA in South Africa and it is headed by a South African and staffed mainly by South Africans and no Nigerian.
So while Africa does not have too large a representative in WADA, it is understood because Africa provides only 0.5 per cent of its annual budget. However, it is not the case with Nigeria, because of all Africa’s contribution in the last five years, Nigeria has provided 12.2 per cent of the money. So it is sad to see our tax payers’ money used to fund an organisation where we have no influence whatsoever, whereas a country like Mauritius that has contributed only 0.6 per cent of Africa’s total contribution over the last five years has a big say in the running of its affairs.
So while our athletes aim high and are judged by their position with the best in the world, the administrators are content to carry out their duties indifferently on the international stage. This way, we lose out on development programmes and the drug crisis keeps on eating deep into our sporting culture. Evidence can be seen in the sports of athletics as we have had over 18 positive cases in the last three years, including an amazing 11 positive cases in the year 2009 alone. We had 13 cases in 2010. Records are not available for the cases in 2011 and 2012.