Disqualified athletes: Sports Minister brokers peace after Tokyo protest

The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare on Friday saved the situation after he intervened to calm frayed nerves following a protest by Nigerian athletes in Tokyo, venue of the 2020 Olympic Games.

The athletes staged a protest in Tokyo after 10 of them were disqualified from taking part in the track and field events of the Games.

The athletes who protested were Ruth Usoro, Favour Ofili, Annette Echikunwoke, Chioma Onyekwere, Glory Patrick, Chidi Okezie, Tima Godbless, Rosemary Chukwuma, Yinka Ajayi and Knowledge Omovoh.

The Athletics Integrity Unit on Wednesday disqualified the athletes after they failed to conduct the mandatory three out-of-competition tests before the Olympics.

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 medallists.”

Our correspondent learnt the minister rescued the situation by appealing to the athletes to let peace reign following the chaos in Team Nigeria camp.

Dare also assured the athletes that their welfare was the utmost priority of the ministry, our source in Japan said.

Captain of Team Nigeria, Aruna Quadri, commended the minister for his “timely intervention.”

He said, “I had a fruitful meeting with the minister based on my position as General Team captain to resolve the issues surrounding the training grant of Nigerian athletes based overseas.

“The meeting has allayed our fears and was very reassuring. The athletes are now relaxed with the action taken by the minister.”

Meanwhile, the sports ministry, in a statement on Friday, signed by Director, Federation of Elites Athletes Department, Dr Simon Ebhojiaye, said it was abreast of the situation.

“The ministry is abreast of the situation and addressing them. Payment of various allowances commenced last week and it’s ongoing,” the statement read.

“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 and field athletes, who will not be competing, and assured them of their welfare. He apologised to them over the unfortunate development that led to their exclusion and promised that it would be fully investigated.”

Following frayed nerves over the Samsung phones given to athletes at the Games, our correspondent learnt Dare along with the Nigeria Olympic Committee resolved the issue after consultations with the International Olympic Committee.

“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 that has been wrongly reported.

“Therefore, the issue of the phones was resolved administratively, according to the IOC rules and guidelines. Team Nigerian officials acted in line with IOC standards and as soon as approval was received the right thing was done.”

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