By Brian Homewood
DOHA (Reuters) – Nigerian pair Divine Oduduru and Blessing Okagbare have been reprieved after an apparent bureaucratic mix-up and will race in the men’s and women’s 200 meters races respectively at the world athletics championships.
The pair were both entered in the 100 meters even though they had said they did not intend to take part. Under IAAF rules, they were then barred from the rest of the competition for failing to turn up for the races.
However, on Sunday the IAAF jury said it accepted their appeal and agreed to reinstate them. “Oduduru and Okabare will be added to the start lists of round one of the 200 men and women respectively” it said in a statement.
Oduduru then made the most of his reprieve as he finished fourth in his heat to qualify for the semi-finals as one of the fastest losers.
“I won’t lie to you. I had a sleepless night. I was up all night thinking. Then devastated.” he told reporters.
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), which had tweeted on Friday that the pair would only race 200 meters, has been criticized over the failure to withdraw them from the 100 meters.
Oduduru agreed that the AFN should take more responsibility.
“They should stand up to what they are supposed to do and get things right so people don’t think that we the athletes are the problem,” he said. “There is a system that is supposed to do something for us the athletes.”
The country’s Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, was among the critics of the situation.
“Doha – all day I have followed the developments around two of our Athletes, Divine and Blessing,” he said on Twitter. “Our officials are at the IAAF Technical Information Center as we speak. Nigerians deserve an explanation.”
Oduduru added that he was proud to represent Nigeria.
“I go to school in the U.S, everyone knows that I’m going to run for my country because I am a Nigerian. I’m ready to fly my country’s flag anytime, any day,” he said.
“I came out here to prove to my people that I’m not running away from my country. I’m out to do what I’m supposed to do as an athlete.”
(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)