Ibrahim Abdul is a proud man in Birmingham as six of the lifters registered by the Nigeria Weightlifting Federation (NWF) won medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Ibrahim , who is NWF  President believes the results came through deliberate and determined efforts of the board who is  bent on changing the hitherto negative narrative of the sport in Nigeria. OLALEKAN OKUSAN in Birmingham reports.

Weightlifting in the first five days of the 2022 Commonwealth Games was the beautiful bride for Team Nigeria as it contributed to a total, six medals including two gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

Yet the man behind the turnaround of the fortunes of the Nigeria Weightlifting Federation (NWF), Dr Abdul Ibrahim, believed his wards still has a lot to offer, adding that the NWF is determined to clean its Augean stable.

“When we came on board, we saw that we must start afresh,” Abdul who doubles as the Vice President of Nigeria Teqball Federation (NIGTEQ) told NationSport. “No disrespect to the previous board that did extremely well and made the country proud, but we came up with a new idea. “

He continued: “we said we must start from the grassroots. We started with the young ones, exposed them, and then gave them the necessary support that they need.

“Having done that, we expose them to the championship, creating the right environment for them and today, we are seeing the results.

“From the outset, we were sincere in what we’re doing. We were open and transparent.

“We are united in the board; we don’t have any issue here and there like many other boards. So, because of that, it is very easy for us to carry out our duties as administrators.”

Despite the euphoria that has greeted the performance of the weightlifting team at Birmingham 2022, Abdul who came on board as the President of NWF in September 2021, recalled with some  tinge of regrets  about  the disappointment  of  the past

“When an athlete is caught for doping, it is because they are not prepared for the championship and so the desperation in them is what made them or motivated them to have doping issues,” Abdul further said. “For us, we realized the importance of early camping.

“Our athletes go camping months before any major competitions and that is also a control mechanism for them because they are together, we watch them.

“Even if they have any form of doping issues, they will not do it because people are watching them. “Secondly, we started by doing seminars by bringing the anti-doping experts to explain to them issues relating to doping.

“The truth is that some of these athletes take some certain drugs and do not even know that they have bad chemicals or substances in them. Now, these athletes know what is expected of them even when they have the slightest headache, and they now know it’s wise to get the right prescriptions from the doctors.

“From the training and seminars, they were able to understand certain things and, on our own on a monthly or quarterly basis, we conducted doping tests for them unaware.

“They are not aware when we send them, sometimes we just call them because we know their whereabouts as our whereabouts system is one of the best. If you check it, we will know where they are all the time and we tell them, if you move from anywhere, let us know so we know your whereabouts. “So, they know that we are watching them. They also know the way to go is to be clean. There is no place for doping anymore, technology has gone very advanced.

“So, people know the importance of being clean, my athletes are focused, they are well experienced, they are well told of what is expected of them and then every day, that’s what we tell them. You can go and compete, competing alone is enough but the game is fair play

“If you must win, you must win cleanly. You can’t go through some shady process so you win, and we can celebrate you. We might celebrate you when you don’t know but when we realise what you have done, we will be the first people to embarrass you and make you know that what you have done, there is no place for it.”

On the banned athletes, he said: “Now, they are serving their ban and as a matter of fact, we just paid their fine. We have two athletes that were banned from 2018 and it came up to $10000 with each paying $5000. With the generosity of the Sports minister, we were able to pay the fine. It is unfortunate it happened, they also should take responsibility even if it is intentional or not, top athletes should also know the consequences of their actions.”

Thanks to the impressive performance of the weightlifting contingent at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Abdul said past sadness has turned to joy , adding his wards  are now  programmed to  fly  the country’s flag at  internationals championships  with pride sans drugs.

He further said: “As a president, I can speak for my board because we set a target for the athletes before coming here. We were expecting about eight medals, we were looking at three to four gold medals.

“Unfortunately, we lost one of our gold medal potentials on Monday August 1 despite what she did in her snatch.

“Despite some unnecessary politicking against us, six out of our eight athletes won medals and this is certainly above average.

“We have done our best and it is a good thing we were the first federation to contribute a gold medal to the country.

“This is a victory for all the sports   in Nigeria and we are proud as a federation that we have done well here for the country.“

Meanwhile, Abdul has revealed that   weightlifters would return to camp with two of them competing later this month at the Solidarity Games in Turkey while some others would compete at the African Youth Games in Morocco later in the year.