Nigeria’s Paralympic powerlifting champion Esther Oyema has told the BBC she is “hurt” after receiving a four-year ban for an anti-doping violation.
Oyema, 38, was last week given the ban by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) after returning an adverse analytical finding for the banned substance 19-norandrosterone.
The substance was found in a urine sample provided on 28 January 2019 after Oyema competed at the Lagos 2019 International Para Powerlifting Competition in Nigeria.
“It’s like I’m in a dream – I am devastated and broken,” Oyema told BBC Sport Africa.
“I feel very sad. I have always worked with passion. I am hurt.”
19-norandrosterone 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 IPC’s statement confirming the finding ruled that Oyema will be ineligible for competition for four years from 3 May 2019 to 2 May 2023.
She has also been stripped of the gold medal which she won in the women’s up to 55kg competition in Lagos, together with any points and prizes.
She will not be able to compete at the Paralympic games in Tokyo next year, where she was looking to add to the gold and silver medals she won at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games respectively.
“It hurts that I can’t compete in Tokyo. This is my passion,” Oyema said.
“I have been tested severally in international competitions and I have never tested positive.”
“I have always stayed clean. My teammates can testify to the fact that I have always been an advocate for competing clean.”
Oyema said her first response on being informed of the positive test was that it was “not possible.”
“I am a healthy athlete. I don’t do drugs,” she said.
After being informed of her positive test, Onyema said the case lingered, as she had no word from the IPC. But in early May 2020, she received a letter from the IPC stating that she failed to respond to their initial letter and thus incurred a ban.
“Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the International Olympic Committee. The letter stated that they had no response to their previous letter from the Nigerian Olympic committee or me and as a result will be imposing a ban on me.
“I told the IPC that I did not receive the first letter requesting for an interrogation and neither did the Nigerian Olympic Committee.
“I was told I had an option to appeal but I am surprised to now see the Paralympic Committee announcing that I have been banned.”
The IPC said it remains committed to a doping-free sporting environment at all levels as a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).