The Athletics Integrity Unit has handed a six-year ban to Divine Oduduru, one of the country’s fastest sprinters, for doping-related offenses.
According to a press statement issued by the Athletics Integrity Unit, a three-member Disciplinary Tribunal found Oduduru guilty of two Anti-Doping Rule Violations.
These violations include the Possession of Prohibited Substances and the Attempted Use of a Prohibited Substance or Method. In addition to the ban, Oduduru has been ordered to pay a fine of US$3000 (over N3m) to cover expenses related to the case.
The ban is retroactive, starting from 9 February 2023, the date of Oduduru’s provisional suspension, and extends until February 8, 2029.
Furthermore, all of Oduduru’s results from 12 July 2021 to the date of his provisional suspension have been invalidated.
According to the AIU statement on Thursday, the case unfolded as part of a criminal investigation into Eric Lira, the first person to plead guilty under the US Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act for providing performance-enhancing drugs to Olympic athletes ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The US Department of Justice’s initial complaint, issued in January 2022, referred to two athletes, “Athlete-1” and “Athlete-2.” The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) identified “Athlete-1” as Blessing Okagbare, who faced an 11-year ban last year, and, following an interview with Oduduru, concluded that he was “Athlete-2.”
Brett Clothier, Head of the AIU, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, stating, “We are very pleased with the outcome of this matter, given its particularly grievous nature, exposing the sinister collusion between athletes and other persons in deliberate plans to corrupt athletics at the highest level.”
Clothier emphasised the AIU’s commitment to uncovering cheats and acknowledged the cooperation with investigative organizations such as the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the United States Department of Justice, whose legal reach provided crucial evidence in both Oduduru’s and Okagbare’s cases.
The panel found Oduduru guilty of Possession of a Prohibited Substance and Attempted Use of a Prohibited Substance, treating them as a single first violation.
The mandatory four-year ban for the combined violation was extended by an additional two years for Aggravating Circumstances.
The panel justified the longer ban by citing Oduduru’s involvement in a scheme with a teammate to procure multiple non-specified Prohibited Substances to influence athletic competitions.
Oduduru, who turned 27 on 7 October, maintained his innocence despite overwhelming evidence against him.
The AIU’s case relied on WhatsApp messages between Okagbare and Lira, revealing Oduduru’s solicitation of Prohibited Substances and photographic evidence of these substances in his Florida apartment.
The substances found included human growth hormone (Somatropin), synthetic Insulin Growth Factor (IGF LR3), and recombinant erythropoietin (EPO).
The panel considered it an extraordinary coincidence that these substances precisely matched those requested by Okagbare from Lira for both herself and Oduduru.
The panel concluded that Oduduru was in constructive possession of the Prohibited Substances based on the circumstances surrounding their discovery in his exclusive control.
Despite the ban and the damning evidence, Oduduru maintained his innocence, and the fallout from this scandal is set to have lasting repercussions on his athletic career and the broader integrity of track and field competitions.