Organisers of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon have described as cheap blackmail reports that one of the participants at the just concluded third edition of the race, Mary Akor, was being denied her entitlement as one of the winners in the Nigerian category.The organisers alleged that Akor dumped Nigeria for the United States of America at the peak of her career in 2004 and therefore was no longer eligible to participate in any championship as a Nigerian.
Akor was said to have competed in the marathon as an American athlete in the 2016 edition like other foreign athletes. She placed ninth overall in the women’s category and she was paid $4000, being the prize money for the ninth-placed runner.
At the end of the third edition of the marathon on Saturday, Akor forced her way to the podium when the first three Nigerian women to finish the race, Deborah Pam, Olude Fadekemi and Olamide Oluwaseun were called to the podium to receive their prizes.“The security men did not manhandle her, they just carried her away from the podium and when she insisted on causing commotion, top officials of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon asked that she be allowed to stand on the podium since all she will be collecting at the ceremony is a dummy cheque,” the organisers explained in a release yesterday.
“The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon is an IAAF label race. It is impossible to deny an athlete prize money that they won. If Akor has a genuine case, let her write to the IAAF or CAS, but she will never do that because she knows the rules. Assuming that Nigerians are probably not aware of the IAAF rules concerning change of allegiance and her current status, she will continue to propagate falsehood.”
According to the organisers, Akor attempted to collect the N1 million prize money for the first Nigerian woman to cross at the finish, not the three million she claimed.“But she and her manager, Tony Osheku, were politely informed that she is not a Nigerian athlete as she had dumped Nigeria for the USA in 2004. When Akor wanted to claim first prize in 2016, she was informed that she needed to write to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) that she wants to start representing Nigeria again.
“The Nigerian prize was instituted by the organizers of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon to encourage Nigerian runners to participate in the race so that they can catch up with their counterparts from other parts of the world. We believe, and rightly so, that Nigeria has the potential to excel in marathons.
“Akor, a Nigerian athlete, agreed with the United States Track and Field Association to start representing USA from 2004. The USATF wrote to AFN, appealing for her release, with the IAAF, the governing body of athletics in the world, as the intermediary. From 2004, Akor ceased to be a Nigerian athlete.”
The organisers said “Akor, an athlete who was recently banned for two years for using performance-enhancing drugs, could face a stiffer penalty if we decide to report her to IAAF for unruly behaviour that could tarnish the good image of athletics.”