NEW YORK — Four-time NCAA champion sprinter Divine Oduduru received a six-year ban for his role in a case first pursued by US authorities under a law designed to combat widespread doping schemes across the globe.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees doping cases in track and field, said a disciplinary panel had found the Nigerian sprinter guilty of possession and use or attempted use of multiple prohibited substances in the leadup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The AIU said there were aggravated circumstances that called for adding two years to the original four-year ban. The ban for the 27-year-old runs through February 2029.
The case stemmed from a criminal investigation into “naturopathic” therapist Eric Lira, who earlier this year became the first person to plead guilty under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, which was enacted to pursue widespread doping crimes.
The AIU said Oduduru was the sprinter labeled “Athlete 2” in the complaint against Lira, who pleaded guilty for his role in providing athletes with performance-enhancing substances. “Athlete 1” was Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, who is serving an 11-year ban.
“To procure those substances, (Oduduru) engaged into a scheme with his teammate who in her turn was procuring those substances on his behalf from a person who was illegally bringing them to US in order to distribute among athletes with the aim to improve their sport performance,” the decision from the AIU panel read. “The panel considers this behavior to be particularly serious.”
Running for Texas Tech, Oduduru swept the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints at NCAA championships in 2019.
He won the 200 meters in 2018 and the 200 at the NCAA indoor championships the same year. He has competed at the last two Summer Olympics but failed to make a final.
The case arose when US prosecutors charged therapist Eric Lira with supplying performance-enhancing drugs to athletes at the Tokyo Olympics. Oduduru’s team mate Blessing Okagbare was banned for 11 years for doping in the lead-up to Tokyo and refusing to co-operate with the investigation.
Her phone was reviewed by US Customs and Border Protection on her return to the United States and a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) complaint set out “highly incriminating text and voice messages” with Lira.
“We are very pleased with the outcome of this matter, given its particularly grievous nature, exposing the sinister collusion between athletes and other persons in deliberate plans to corrupt athletics at the highest level,” said Brett Clothier, Head of the AIU, said in a statement.
“The AIU is fully committed to unearthing cheats and the extent of their networks. In our quest to protect the integrity of athletics, we often work closely with other investigative organisations,” said Clothier.