Esther Oyema: Paralympic Champion Hit With 4-Year Ban For Doping Violations

Esther Oyema will miss next year’s Paralympics in Tokyo after she was slammed with a four-year ban for a doping violation.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced the ban of the former Paralympic champion on its website on Wednesday.

In addition to the ban, Oyema has also been stripped of the gold medal she won in the Women’s 55kg competition in Lagos, together with any points and prizes.

The IPC said the 38-year-old para-athlete “returned an adverse analytical finding for a prohibited substance in a urine sample provided on 28 January 2019 after competing at the Lagos 2019 International Para Powerlifting Competition in Nigeria.”

It named the substance as 19-norandrosterone which it said: “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”.

Consequently, Oyema who won gold and silver medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games respectively “will be ineligible for competition for four years from 3 May 2019 to 2 May 2023”.

Any hopes of adding a third medal Paralympic Games medal to her impressive collection of laurels have been firmly crushed.

“Each athlete is strictly liable for the substances found in his or her sample. An ADRV occurs whenever a prohibited substance (or its metabolites or markers) is found in his or her bodily specimen, whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault,” the IPC statement added.

“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.”

The failed doping test and ban is a severe blow to Oyema and could spell an ignominious end to what has been an extremely impressive and storied career.

It is also further unwelcome news for the beleaguered Para-Powerlifting Federation of Nigeria which has been riven by infighting that led to the forced resignation of the body’s former president Queen Uboh.

One of Nigeria’s greatest-ever Para-Powerlifters, Oyema is the holder of multiple world records in different categories.

Two years after narrowly missing out on retaining her gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, Oyema set a world record in the women’s under-50kg category by lifting 131kg at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

She had earlier obliterated the previous world record in the women’s 61 kg event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with a new mark of 122.4 kg on her way to the gold medal in the heavyweight category.

Oyema also set a new record at the 2015 All-Africa Games by lifting 133 kg to beat her previous record of 126 kg. She followed that with a gold medal at the 2015 IPC Powerlifting Asian Open Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan by lifting 79 kg. 

There has been no official reaction to the development by the Para-Powerlifting Federation of Nigeria at the time of publishing this report.