Nigeria’s track and field runner, Divine Ododuru, alleged to be the ‘Athlete 2’ in the Blessing Okagbare’s doping scandal, has been provisionally suspended by World Athletics’ Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for possession/use or attempted use of a Prohibited Substance.
In a release on its website, the AIU said it has notified the 26-year-old of ‘two potential Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) and is seeking a six-year ban against the Nigerian.
Oduduru 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).
According to the AIU, ‘these alleged violations stem from an AIU investigation based on information in a criminal charge brought against US-based ‘naturopathic’ therapist Eric Lira, on January 12, 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.’ The AIU said ‘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 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.’
The three-time African Games and three-time African Championships medallist has been linked to Texas-based “naturopathic” therapist, based on information into a criminal charge against Lira.
‘Athlete 1’ in this case was found to be sprint and long jump world medallist, Blessing Okagbare, who has been given a 10-year ban.
Oduduru’s links to Texas dates back to 2017 when he joined Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, a five-hour drive to El Paso.
Okagbare, who effectively may be serving a lifetime ban as she is unable to return to competition until she is 43, competed for the University of Texas at El Paso Miners in the same city where Lira was based.
Lira was charged under the Rodchenkov Act in the United States – which allows criminal charges to be brought against those found to have committed anti-doping rule violations – and faces up to 10 years in prison.
He communicated with the Olympians through encrypted messaging, supplying them with performance-enhancing drugs.
Oduduru faces one charge of possession and one related to the use of undisclosed prohibited substances, according to the AIU, after being identified through text messages with Okagbare, which were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, allowed by the Rodchenkov Act.
His suspension is related to Lira’s criminal charge from January 2022 after Okagbare was provisionally suspended at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, ruling her out of the semifinals of the women’s 100 metres after winning the heat.
She had tested positive for a human growth hormone.
In February 2022, the now 34-year-old was handed 11-year suspension for ‘multiple breaches of anti-doping rules.’
The Rodchenkov Act was named after Grigory Rodchenkov, who led Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme before turning whistleblower, eventually leading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s two-year sanction on the nation, which expired in December 2022.
Oduduru once held the world lead during the 2019 season when he ran a personal best of 9.86 seconds in the men’s 100 metres in Austin and broke the national record the same day in the 200m in a time of 19.73 to win both National Collegiate Athletic Association titles, as well as the 4x100m relay gold.
At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Oduduru was disqualified in the heats of the men’s 100m for a false start, before narrowly missing the final of the men’s 200m.