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Nigerian sprinter Divine Oduduru suspended for doping, risks six-year ban

Nigeria’s national record-holder in 200 metres, Divine Oduduru, has been suspended from competition indefinitely by the Athletics Integrity Unit over two anti-doping violations.

The 26-year-old sprinter joins Blessing Okagbare on the list of athletes identified as collaborators with Lira. Lira was accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes who participated in the Tokyo Olympics.

Oduduru, who now faces being banned for six years, has been charged with ?the possession and/or use or attempted use of multiple prohibited substances.

This comes about a year after an 11-year ban was imposed on former national team captain Blessing Okagbare for a similar case.

The AIU is linking Oduduru to Okagbare’s misdemeanor, which was said to have occurred just before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021, with more details yet to be unravelled.

In 2022, Okagbare was banned for 11 years following an investigation by AIU after she failed an out-of-competition doping test.

In the statement, AIU said Oduduru was identified as a suspect based on the information in the complaint, including text conversations imaged from Okagbare’s mobile phone by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

It added that the process has begun to hand a six-year ban on the Ughelli-born athlete.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has notified Divine Oduduru of two potential Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) and is seeking a six-year ban against the Nigerian, the statement reads.

The sprinter has been notified of potential ADRVs for possession (Rule 2.6 of the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules; ADR) and/or use or attempted use of multiple Prohibited Substances (Rule 2.2 ADR). He has been provisionally suspended immediately.

These alleged violations stem from an AIU investigation based on information in a criminal charge brought against US-based naturopathic therapist Eric Lira, on 12 January, 2022, by the United States Department of Justice under the Rodchenkov Act.

Lira is alleged to have supplied performance-enhancing drugs to athletes before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (delayed until summer 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic). The complaint against Lira provides specific information regarding persons identified as Athlete 1 and Athlete 2. In February 2022, a sole arbitrator of the AIU Disciplinary Tribunal concluded that they were comfortably satisfied that Athlete 1 was Oduduru’s team-mate, Blessing Okagbare, and banned her from the sport for ten years, which was increased to an 11-year ban in June 2022 following further charges brought by the AIU.

Based on the information in the complaint, including text conversations imaged from Okagbare’s mobile phone by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and further evidence obtained from the AIU investigation, the AIU alleges that Oduduru is Athlete 2 identified in the complaint.

As the process is ongoing, the AIU will make no further comment on the matter at this time.

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