Nigerian Paralympic gold medallist receives 4-year ban from IPC

Former Paralympic and Commonwealth Games champion, Esther Onyema banned for four years for anti-doping violation

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has banned Nigeria’s former Paralympic and Commonwealth Games champion, Esther Onyema for four years for committing an anti-doping rule violation.

The announcement was made on the IPC’s official website. An anti-doping rule violation occurs when a prohibited substance (or its metabolites or markers) is found in a bodily specimen, whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault. Each athlete is strictly liable for the substances found in his or her sample.

According to a statement issued by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) : “As a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC), the IPC remains committed to a doping-free sporting environment at all levels.

“The IPC, together with the International Federations and the National Paralympic Committees, established the IPC Anti-Doping Code (the Code) to prevent doping in sport for Paralympic athletes, in the spirit of fair play. The Code is in conformity with the general principles of the WADC.”

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The substance was 19-norandrosterone which is included on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 2019 Prohibited List under the class S1.1B Endogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) and their Metabolites and isomers.

The substance was found in her urine sample collected on January 28, 2019 at the 2019 International Para Powerlifting competition which held in Lagos. She was subsequently stripped of the gold medal she won at the competition while competing in the women’s up to 55kg class, along with any points and prizes she accrued.

Onyema’s won gold medals at the last three Commonwealth Games in Delhi (India), Glasgow (Scotland) and Gold Coast (Australia) where she had the honour of being Nigeria’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

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She will serve her ban from May 3, 2020 to May 2, 2023 which means she will not be able to add to the gold and silver medals she won at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Tokyo next year. Onyema narrowly missed a consecutive Paralympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil when she was edged out by Mexico’s Amalia Perez who broke a world record on her way to claiming the top place on the podium.

Onyema joins fellow London 2012 powerlifting gold medallist Ivory Nwokorie who received a two year ban and a fine of €1,500, after submitting a positive sample on 23 February 2013 at the 5th Fazaa International Powerlifting Competition.

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Onyema’s ban further adds to the crisis in the Nigeria Para-powerlifting Federation. On 15 May 2020, an Investigative and Disciplinary Committee set up by the Federation recommended sanctions against the federation’s currently suspended President Queen Uboh-Idris for violating the Code of Conduct guiding the federation.

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