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SPORTS UPDATE

BREAKING: U.S. drops charges against Blessing Okagbare

There were strong indications yesterday that the United States may have dropped ‘all charges’ against Nigerian sprinter, Blessing Okagbare, who is serving a 10-year ban over drugs offences.

Okagbare was provisionally suspended for testing positive for human growth hormone in July 2021, just hours before her 100m semifinals at Tokyo Olympics. She was later handed a 10-year ban by the world anti-doping agency (WADA).

Before then, Okagbare was under investigation by an American agency for some other misdemeanours. The U.S. Federal authorities had searched Okagbare’s cellphone on her return to the country from the Tokyo Olympics and found she had frequently communicated with Eric Lira, a kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor, who was said to have brought ‘misbranded’ versions of the drugs to the U.S. from Central and South America before distributing them to athletes.

But a source close to World Athletics told The media yesterday that the U.S. has dropped ‘all charges’ against Okagbare.

“What I just heard is that America has dropped all charges against Blessing Okagbare. But that does not in any way affect the 10-year ban on her,” the source stated.

Meanwhile, athletics followers in Nigeria are worried over the ‘long disappearance’ of top sprinter, Divine Oduduru, from track and field.

Since his participation at the Tokyo Olympics, Oduduru has not been seen in any athletics event despite being in the country.

Oduduru was disqualified for a false start in the 100m race in Tokyo, where it was adjudged he jumped the gun.

A few days later, the U.S.-based sprinter was allegedly involved in an altercation with the Special Assistant to the Sports Minister, Mary Onyali, during a party organised for Team Nigeria by the Nigerian Ambassador to Japan, where Oduduru was prevented by Onyali on the ground that he wore a Puma kit instead of adhering to the dress code recommended b the sports ministry.

Another angle to the story was that Oduduru ‘abandoned’ his trip to the U.S. and headed to Nigeria from the Tokyo Olympics after he got the news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched Okagbare’s cellphone on her arrival in the United States from the Tokyo Olympics. Since then, Oduduru has not returned to his base in the U.S.

An athletics coach told The Guardian yesterday that Oduduru’s ‘long disappearance’ from the athletics scene is worrisome. “We have the African Senior Athletics Championship in Mauritius in June, the World Championships in Oregon in July and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, also in July. Nobody seems to know Oduduru’s plan for the season and it is worrisome,” the coach said.

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