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Four-time NCAA champion facing six-year ban for doping violations

The second athlete in the strange Blessing Okagbare doping scandal has been revealed by the Athletics Integrity Unit

Photo by: W/C

On Thursday morning, Athlete #2 in the Blessing Okagbare doping scandal was revealed to be her Nigerian teammate, four-time NCAA sprint champion and Tokyo Olympian Divine Oduduru. The Athletics Integrity Unit has provisionally suspended Oduduru for two potential Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs), which could result in a six-year ban from the sport.

According to a string of messages on the popular social media app WhatsApp, Okagbare (Athlete #1) sought performance-enhancing drugs from El Paso, Texas-based naturopath Eric Lira, for herself and her Nigerian teammate Oduduru. At the time (June 2021), Oduduru was dealing with a hamstring injury and was “looking for help the hamstring heal really fast.”

“Hey Eric, I just sent you $2,500, can you confirm it? And also, remember I told you (Athlete #2) had hurt his hamstring, so anything that can help the hamstring heal fast you can actually bring it as well, ok?” – (Athlete #1) Blessing Okagbare to Eric Lira on June 7, 2021.

“Hola amigo / Eric my body feels so good / I just ran 10.63 in the 100m on Friday / with a +2.7 wind / I am sooooo happy / Ericccccccc / Whatever you did, is working so well.” – (Athlete #1) Blessing Okagbare to Lira on June 22, 2021.

On July 30, 2021, Okagbare was suspended following her 100m heat at the Tokyo Olympics when it was discovered that she had tested positive for human growth hormone (HGH) in an out-of-competition test on July 19. In addition, Okagbare had tested positive for EPO on June 20, and was also charged for refusing to co-operate with the investigation.

Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare at the 2021 USATF Grand Prix in Eugene, Ore. Photo: Kevin Morris

Okagbare was later given an additional ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) to her existing 10-year suspension for doping violations, evading sample collections and tampering with the doping control process.

When the text messages were released in January 2022, the identity of Athlet #2 was unknown but many speculated it was a male training partner of Okagbare’s at Florida-based Tumbleweed Track Club.

Okagbare and Oduduru were both a part of the Nigerian national team program and trained together under now-controversial coach Rana Reider with Tumbleweed Track Club. Reider was also the coach of Canadian 200m Olympic champion Andre De Grasse until recently

Coach Rana Reider (centre) with his Tumbleweed Track Club. Photo: Arve E. Bergan/CC

Oduduru has not competed since Okagbare was suspended in January 2022.

Oduduru ran for Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where he was a four-time NCAA champion in the 100m and 200m. He also reached the Tokyo Olympic semi-finals in the 200m and holds the Nigerian national record of 19.73 seconds.

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