For the first time in 12 years and the next 10, Nigeria’s 100m record holder, Blessing Okagbare will be missing in action as the stage is set for another exciting time of athletics when the world’s top athletes converge on the Qatar Sports Club, Doha, Qatar this Friday for the opening leg of the 2022 Wanda Diamond League.
The Nigerian who has made a record 79 appearances in the competition, an annual series of elite track and field athletic competitions comprising fourteen (13 this year) of the best invitational athletics meetings is banned from participating in the competition and indeed all other local and international events following her 10 year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit, AIU.
Okagabare was banned five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to co-operate with the AIU’s investigation into her case.
This suspension will now prevent the 33 year old from not only extending her record-breaking appearance record after she was officially recognised in 2018 for ‘the most appearances in Diamond League meetings by an athlete’ but also the opportunity to emulate sprint hurdler, Tobi Amusan who made history in 2021 as the first Nigerian to win a Diamond League discipline.
Okagbare made her Diamond League debut on July 3, 2010 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oegon, USA, running a then 11.03s personal best to place fourth in the 100m event.
The African, Commonwealth, World and Olympic medal winner made her debut in the Doha leg of the competition in 2011 with a 23.19s performance in the 200m.
She went on to make seven more appearances in Doha including the 2021 edition where she ran 10.90s in the blue ribband race.
Okagbare’s major highlights in the competition will include her Nigeria and African record-setting 10.79s 100m performance at the London Diamond League meeting in July 2013.
The African record was however broken by Cote D’Ivoire’s Muriel Ahoure the following year with a 10.78s performance.
She also achieved her personal best in the long jump event in the competition, jumping 7.00m at the Herculis Zepter in Monaco in July 2013.