Sunday, 17 October 2010

Nigeria: Addressing sports corruption

They pulled it off

The Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi, India have finally come to an end as what had all the makings of a farce suddenly transmogrified into a miracle of possibilities we never thought India could pull off.

The very first gold medal of the games went to Nigeria and it almost persuaded me to get interested in the events, I watched the swimming qualifiers, some of the running, a little of the cycling.

It never occurred to me that the selected national anthem for England was interminably long; at least twice I thought we were at the end and we were just about halfway through.

Sometimes, it makes you wonder why the English should be singing “Jerusalem” instead of the more rousing “Land of Hope and Glory” or the more solemn “I vow to thee my country.”

Won, lost and disgraced

In any case it was not the winning of medals that captured the news but the losing of supposed wins, the 100m female final that had the winner adjudged a false-start after she had taken the lap of honour and the spoils going to the Nigerian, who after her own lap of honour lost it for the dishonourable conduct of drug doping [1].

The pain threshold of the Nigerian had been tested since she apparently had toothache and took a “remedy” for this condition which then happened to a banned substance.

The jury might be out between the inadvertent and the deliberate but one is left rather deflated after the elated victory by technical default turned into ignominy, infamy and shame for being caught out as a cheat.

The pain of stimulation

To all the protestations of the Nigerian officials as the lady was stripped of her medal and ready for the impending disgrace I could find no place where Methylhexanamine [2] is used as an analgesic and if needed for medication is used as a nasal decongestant, might well be used for hypertrophied (swelling) or hyperplasic (cell multiplication) oral tissues which could be as a result of toothache but is no indication this drug has that therapeutic property.

It is more generally used as a stimulant and hence can give the users undue advantage in sports competition. As that matter was being handled, another Nigerian tested positive and though he did not lose a medal having come sixth, he had compounded the ignominy that Nigeria had already been subjected to.

The doping and testing chase

The issue here is that people try to cut corners, gain advantage and short-cut their way to success without the hard graft with the hope that they do not get caught out.

Testing is getting more sophisticated just as doping is taking on a more scientific bent that leaves testers in a catch-up game.

Maybe the Nigerians were already behind the curve on the doping game and having been promised the possibility of getting past the testers for victories that could bring amazing rewards; they threw caution to the winds and dared to do the ignoble.

Helping the sportspersons

One would think sportspersons and their handlers were quite conversant of the requirements for sportsmanship and the stringent testing procedures that attend to professional athletes.

Maybe sportspersons can no longer use over-the-counter medication for the fear of being caught doping and maybe certain foods need to be reviewed for doping content but the sports officials should be in close supervision of their wards and ensure they are not endangered by either ignorance or temptation.

It would unfortunate if sportspersons are not allowed to use medication for pain relief, common colds or flu just because they might gain undue competitive advantage.

In fact, along with the list of banned substances, there should be a list of commonly accepted medication for ailments that require self-medicated relief without the compromise of cleanliness in sport.

The aftermath

Much as other nationals were also caught doping, the third Nigerian caught probably did the greatest damage to our reputation because that disgraceful act cost us 2 silver medals, the one she won as an individual and that as part of a relay team.

In this case, this was an outright doping case of using testosterone prohormone and in the case of the second and third culprits they waived the option to have their B samples tested – they had been caught out, fair and square.

Probably the rewards for sporting success are great from the accolades of adulation to monetary gain and honours but at what cost?

Some have said maybe doping should be allowed to see exactly to what limits the body can be exerted in the pursuit of glory and the breaking of heretofore unbroken records but do we want to see people or drugged up constructs of flesh, blood and bones masquerading as human doing the impossible?

Retribution

Whichever way the people decide to vote, the battering Nigeria continues to suffer by reason of its representatives in international competitions or on the political stage has to stop; there is no reason for our sportspersons to imitate the kleptomaniacs, cheats and corrupt people who have saddled Nigeria with disrepute.

For change should come from all of us, especially sportspersons who are exposed and are role models whose positive image would in some ways inspire others to excellence through hard work rather than through cheating.

We probably need a sporting crimes body to manage that part of human endeavour in Nigeria as we have for financial crimes, a body to investigate and adjudicate on these matters with regards to Nigerians.

They would have a docket full of corruption investigations into our football management, sports doping, and the matters of selection, participation, loyalty and patriotism in service to Nigeria. These people are supposed to be the standard bearers of the National Pledge inspiring others to national duty.

Culprits should know that there is a lot more at stake than losing medals and facing bans – this is another part of the rebranding Nigerian exercise that needs looking into.

Sources

[1] BBC Sport - Commonwealth Games: Damola Osayemi loses gold medal

[2] Methylhexanamine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] BBC Sport - Commonwealth Games 2010: Third Nigerian tests positive

The National Anthem of England

I vow to thee, my country

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