Sports Minister Sunday Dare and his SA Media John-Joshua Akanji responded to my article Sunday Dare’s list of sports icons smacks of nepotism, rewards drug cheats with a phantom name. The duo, instead of countering my assertions with superior arguments, responded with insults, false claims, and subtle blackmail OLUKAYODE THOMAS reports.

Introduction 

The Pharisees and Sadducees never had an answer whenever they were confronted with facts by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, instead they resort to lying, intimidations, insults and all manners of shenanigans. 

Sports Minister Sunday Dare and his SA Media, John Joshua-Akanji’s, response to my article Sunday Dare’s list of sports icons smacks of nepotism, rewards drug cheats titled Kayode Thomas piece on Sports Icons: pot pouri of half-truths, deceit, ignorance and hatchet work by Oyewole Owolabi fits perfectly into the way the Pharisees and the Sadducees reacted to Jesus when confronted with facts. 

Nigeria's Sports Minister, Sunday Dare.

Dare and Joshua-Akanji chose to act like the Pharisees and the Sadducees because they knew I wrote an unbiased report and the only way they could defend their grave error was to leave the message and attack the messenger with lies and insults, using phantom Oyewole Owolabi as smokescreen.

My story and harvest of insults

The issues I raised are germane: That naming drugs cheats as icons is against global best practices and are not in line with the ideals of Olympic movement and World Athletics. I gave examples of Linford Christie, Lance Armstrong, and Marion Jones. 

In my article, I stated that the word icon means a person worthy of veneration and a drug cheat can’t be a role model. Naming them icons sends a wrong signal to young athletes. 

That since Dare is a neophyte in sports, he should not be blamed for the list but he should be humble enough to apologize and withdraw it and that those gave him the final list did sports a disservice. 

That Falilat Ogunkoya and Sunday Bada cannot be grouped with the Atlanta ’96 4x400m team and the Sydney 2000 4x400m team because members of the team tested positive to performance enhancing drugs therefore can’t be icons. 

Secondly, that none of the athletes named as icons matched the achievements of Ogunkoya and Bada and the duo achieved these feats without testing positive to drugs.

That the omission of Innocent Egbunike and Yussuf Alli was an aberration. Jon Obi Mikel deserves to be on the list as his achievements dwarf that of Garuba Lawal and Daniel Amokachi, ditto Mercy Akide over Perpetua Nkwocha and also Kadri ikhana deserved to be named icon.

 I asked why Aruna Quadri, the only table-tennis player to have ever fly our flag on the global stage was snubbed and why include Dick Tiger whose feats especially beating French-Algerian Cherif Hamia to the world title in 1957 was before our independence and exclude Emmanuel Ifeajuna, the first Black African to win a gold medal in an international games. That if Tiger, whose achievement predate independence can make the list, why exclude Ifeajuna.

I concluded by praising the inclusion of Olumide Oyedeji, Segun Odegbami, Jighere Wellington, Odion Aikhoje, Modupe Oshikoya, Hogan Bassey, Samuel Peters, Nojeem Mayegun, Rashidi Yekini, Power Mike, Nduka Odizor and MKO Abiola. 

Dare and Joshua-Akanji responded with abuses and insults

Dare, an Honourable Minister, completely ignored where I commended the exercise. Instead of responding to the shortcomings I raised with superior arguments, fact and figures, he choose to be like the Pharisees and Sadducees by resorting to lies, abuses and blackmail. 

He lied that it is in my character to run people down and that it led to my inglorious exit from The Guardian Newspapers. For your information and for the reading public, I resigned voluntarily from The Guardian November 24, 2008 to join Next Newspapers.

The management wrote me a letter dated December 15, 2008 accepting my resignation. The letter was signed by the then Human Resources Manager, Victor Aibaengbee. 

You claimed my write up was outright lies and misinformation but you guys failed as journalists to point out the lies and misinformation or counter my lies with the truth rather you just kept heaping insults on my person.

You claimed the list was scrutinized by experts but why can’t you mention their names or mention those that sponsored my write-up after all he that allege must prove. 

As the Sports Minister who has access to all the files in the Sports Ministry, I expected you to name the committees that I have served on and endorsed unethical practices and support action that are not in line with the best global practices in sports.

Ajunwa and Onyali 

Your claim that I have personal score to settle with Chioma Ajunwa and Mary Onyali is not true.

For your information, I have known Ajunwa since 1996 when I was a cub reporter and I have done extensive work on Ajunwa the athlete and the person but rules are rules. 

That drug cheats have been moved from the backstage to the high table under your watch is a fact. When the likes of late Abdul Karim Amu were around, drug cheats dare not move near athletics. After her second ban, Ajunwa left athletics completely for Chess. 

She represented Rivers State in Chess at the FCT 2004 National Sports Festival. When AFP asked in an interview in May 14, 2004, why she took up competitive Chess she replied. “Life has to go on.”  

I don’t have any score to settle with Onyali either. For your information I hosted Onyali in Lagos the last time she visited my office with late Jide Fashikun. 

When you started interfering in the affairs of AFN which has led to fractionalization of the board, I spoke with Onyali for over an hour and warned her that Ministers come and Ministers go, but as a knowledgeable person in athletics, many people will blame her for not warning you about the implications of your direct interference in the affairs of AFN.

Whether Onyali informed you and you ignored her advice I don’t know but the events of the last few months has shown that your action of siding with Olamide George against Ibrahim Gusau is wrong. 

Two courts, an High Court and an Appeal Court have affirmed Gusau as the authentic president of AFN as we await the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter, it’s important to state here that the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) the governing body of athletics in Africa and the World Athletics recognize Gusau as the authentic President of AFN. 

  Medals not withdrawn as weak and uninformed argument 

Sports Minster, your claim in public that drug cheats can be honored as long as their medals are not withdrawn is false. The conclusions I can draw is that you are not aware of the rules of the sports, best global practices in sports, you don’t listen to your advisers or your advisers too don’t know. 

This is how sports works. If an athlete wins a medal in a games or championships and tests positive, their medal will be withdrawn.

 But if an athlete has won a medal before a ban or after serving a ban for doping infraction, the medal will not be withdrawn.  That is why Linford Christie still keeps all the 24 medals he won before he was banned in 1999.

That is why the only medal withdrawn from Marion Jones were the ones she won at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She still has the medals she won before Sydney, ditto Ben Johnson and others. 

Ajunwa’s medal was not withdrawn because it was won in 1996, four years after her ban in 1992. Ditto Onyali who had finished serving her ban before winning her medal in Atlanta.

   World Athletics, athletics family, US frown at drugs cheats  

For your information Sports Minister, in September 2020, the World Athletics condemned the election of drugs cheat Ivan Tsikhan as President Belarus Athletic Federation.

"Member of Federations conduct their elections in line with their own constitutions and their own congresses as we understand it was done in this case. However, no one who has served a doping ban would be able to hold an official position on World Athletics bodies or structures today.” A spokeswoman for World Athletics told insidethegames.

Paula Radcliffe the former world record holder in marathon who vowed never touch the London 2012 Olympics Touch if Linford Christie carried the touch also vehemently opposed the idea of naming Christie a role model.

Asked if she thought Christie's role is a good idea, Radcliffe told BBC: 

“We have to make sure that the people in that mentor role have an integrity and strong sense of ethics and morals. They must have achievements that the athletes can look up to and can trust in and believe in. If you do take shortcuts then you're not only cheating yourself and your fellow competitors but you're also cheating your country and your supporters." 

According to BBC, United States Senate just passed a bill that will allow US officials to prosecute anyone involved in doping at international sporting events.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, is set to be signed into law by President Donald Trump. US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart said it was "monumental" in the "fight for clean sport". 

The legislation, which passed the Senate unopposed after previously passing the House of Representatives unanimously, allows the US to seek prosecution for doping conspirators at competitions involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.

It targets coaches, agents, managers and officials rather than athletes, who are already covered by WADA sanctions. The potential penalties include fines of up to $1m (£756,000) or prison sentences of up to 10 years report BBC.

Nigerian Athletes May Miss Tokyo 2020 Olympics Because of Doping 

In a season when the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) and the athletics family worldwide have categorized Nigeria as a country considered to have the highest doping risk, the Sports Minister honouring drugs cheats on WADA list is a misnomer.

Nigeria home based athletes may not be allowed to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games as the AFN has failed to comply with Rule 15 obligations. 

Hitherto, we were a Category B country but because of none compliance, the AIU move us into Category A, the implication of the above is that our athletes may not be allowed to participate in major games and championships in 2021.

To avoid the above sanction, our Tokyo bound athletes must undergo at least three out-of-competition doping tests before the Olympic Games.

Litigation and questioning my upbringing 

Again and again, the Sports Minister displayed his disdain for research and fact checking the basic principle of journalism from the beginning of his write-up to the end.

The last place I practiced journalism was The Nation Newspapers and there was no litigation against me or the management. A simple phone call would have clarified this for you. 

In my over two decades in the media, I have been involved in litigation twice. One at FCT High Court in 2007 and Industrial Court in Lagos in 2013, I won the two cases. 

There is no place in my write-up that I claim to have monopoly of knowledge or being an encyclopedia of sports.

What has upbringing, traditional value and respect for elders got to do with stating the obvious fact that Aliko Dangote and Kessington Adebutu cannot be sports icons? 

The duo are greats in many aspects especially business but as sports icon no and I am positive they will be embarrassed that they are dressed in borrowed robes. They will be equally embarrassed by your claim that they have spent billions in resuscitation of decaying facilities, this is a lie. 

As at today MKO Abiola Stadium Abuja and National Stadium, Lagos are still works in progress. So why the unfounded claim Honourable Minister?

Lastly, the Minister must be told that in or out of government, we are all not just Nigerians but patriotic ones who hates anything that will diminish or tarnish the image of our country.

 That is why we cannot keep quiet when standards that are below the acceptable best global practices are being set at the highest level of government.

OLUKAYODE THOMAS is a Lagos based reporter.
 

PULL QUOTE: Dare and Joshua-Akanji chose to act like the Pharisees and the Sadducees because they knew I wrote an unbiased report and the only way they could defend their grave error was to leave the message and attack the messenger with lies and insults, using phantom Oyewole Owolabi as smokescreen

PULL QUOTE: Dare, an Honourable Minister, completely ignored where I commended the exercise. Instead of responding to the shortcomings I raised with superior arguments, fact and figures, he choose to be like the Pharisees and Sadducees by resorting to lies, abuses and blackmail. 

 

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