Athletics is dead in Nigeria —Franca Idoko

•Mocks AFN for recruiting Americans to run for Nigeria •Says Okagbare is under pressure

OLYMPICS silver medallist, Ene Franca Idoko, has declared that athletics is dead in Nigeria.

She made the submission while speaking on a television programme against the backdrop of the results posted by Nigerian athletes at the just-ended Rio Olympics in Brazil.

“Our administrators are killing the sport. We have to understand that you cannot reap from where you did not sow. I’m sorry to say this, we believe too much in fire-brigade approach. Sports is dying in Nigeria because our administrators are not doing what they are supposed to do. It was on during our time but it was better. It is that bad now.

“Imagine, our athletes went to the Rio Olympics and they never received training grants. If one or two things are lacking in athletics, you can’t perform effectively, I am talking from experience.

“In fact, athletics is dead in Nigeria. The federation (Athletics Federation of Nigeria) went to the United States of America to recruit athletes to represent Nigeria, it is very bad. During our time, I was brought up in athletics from primary school to secondary school down to the university before I became a professional.

“What we want now is emergency medals and that is why we will go to the United States to give our nationalities to the Americans to come and represent us. It would have even been better if they are recruiting young athletes but their focus is on who can deliver medals to Nigeria.

“AFN does not believe in home-grown athletes any longer which is wrong. There must be adequate funding by the government too for the athletes to excel and not that we will wait till the last minute for footballers to win our only medal at the Rio Olympics,” the Benue State-born former sprinter said.

Idoko, noted that maladministration is taking its toll on Blessing Okagbare, who at Rio 2016 failed to qualify for the 100m and 200m finals.

“The pressure is too much on Okagbare, she is trying her best but the system is not ideal. The pressure on her is too much from the federation and the country as a whole. Government must stop releasing money late for preparations for major Games. Our athletes went to the world junior athletics championship in Poland without be given allowances. These young athletes went begging on the streets of Poland for survival, can you imagine and you want them to perform optimally. Nigeria is supposed to be competing with the United States and Jamaica in athletics but the reverse is the case today because we are not doing the right thing,” said Idoko, who alongside Gloria Kemasuode, Halimot Ismaila and Oludamola Osayomi won the 4×100 metres relay bronze at Beijing 2008 Olympics, which was later upgraded to silver by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) last week following the disqualification of Russia, which came second during the event for doping.

The 2007 All Africa Games silver medallist, stated that she was glad over the Beijing 2008 medal news.

“It is a great feeling, having a bronze medal before and now silver, I hope they will soon award the silver medals to us. Even when we came back with the bronze in 2008, we didn’t even get a handshake or a congratulatory message but thank God today that I can now be addressed as Olympics silver medallist. That is the joy of the whole thing but it would have been better if the silver medal had been awarded right on the podium,” Idoko said.