Recently banned for six years by the Athletics Integrity Unit over allegations of possession of prohibited substances, DIVINE ODUDURU in this exclusive interview with Bold Sports talks for the first time about circumstances that led to his eventual ban and his plans for the future
The AIU announced that you had been placed on a six-year ban last week and you have been in the news as a result of this for some days. How did you take the news?
I took the news as something that is unfair based off everything that has happened. I went through a very thorough interview session with the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), where they were trying to get details of what happened during the period that I was not in the United States I gave details of what happened and the person who got access into my apartment who happens to be my agent, Paul Doyle, when I was planning to travel out of the country (USA) to Europe to prepare for the Olympics.
We agreed (Paul and I) that after the Olympics, I was going to buy a house, so, he said there was no need for me to pay my rent during the time that I was going to be away, and that he was going to move my things out of my apartment, so I dropped my keys with him (Paul). He was the one who got my apartment for me, he paid for the apartment, so they knew him at the residence where I lived. When I left, he got access to my apartment, he never called me, and he never said anything to me during the period I was at the Olympics. So, getting to hear all of these things after the season, I gave all the details to the AIU and they were still able to conclude on this issue the way they did is unfair.
I just started my career, coming from the NCAA in 2019 and COVID-19 came, I was not able to express my professional career in a proper way and getting to this time when I should be opportune to exploit the God-given talent in my life, I am being denied by the AIU due to the fact that a white man that happens to be a racist came out and said this was what he saw, even when there was no evidence, my name was not on it, there was no evidence that I was using it, because I was tested for drug back-to-back, my urine is clean and my blood is clean. I don’t know why they believe him over me, that is the athlete. They believed him over me and concluded the case on what he said was really not clear to me.
Now that you said the decision to place you on a six-year ban is unfair, do you have any plans to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sports?
I don’t have any plan to appeal because it is going to cost me money to do that and I don’t have that money right now, because since the incident happened, my money hasn’t been paid, my contract money has not been paid from PUMA. It is really interesting because after the Olympics, I sent a message to my agent and I told him that my money had not been paid and he told me that I should not worry, that my money was going to be paid and that they just paid some batch of athletes and that the other set is going to receive their money. I said no problem and I still sent him a message again and he said no problem, that they were working on it. When I was to get another payment in January (2023), I sent him a message again that this was a new season I was supposed to get my money, he said they were still working on it, but he never told me anything that there was an issue going on or him becoming a whistleblower to my career, for somebody that I am paying money to be my agent, being a destroyer to my career. So, I don’t have that money, a lot of thousands of dollars are being seized right now, and I am not going to get it because I am being punished for what I know nothing about.
When was the last time you got any payment from PUMA?
The last time I got payment from PUMA was in January of the Olympic year (2021), then at the end of the year. I was supposed to get another payment and I did not get any of that. It was later in 2021, that Paul sent a long email that he was no longer my agent and that he was so disappointed in me. I was surprised because I had been talking to him the whole time. We were communicating and on good terms and none of these came out and suddenly, he sent a message to me that my contract with him is being terminated, that he was no longer my agent, and that PUMA wouldn’t pay me my money because they terminated my contract due to some drug issue.
That made me feel like I was being used and oppressed, because as my agent, he was the one who was to fight for me as an athlete, stand for me as an athlete, and protect me, not the one selling me out, because at this point, he was the one that sold me out to the public that this was what was going on, and at the same time, he was fooling around that the money was yet to be paid, that was why I had not gotten my money. He could do that and get away with it because he knew nothing would be done, I can assure you that Nigeria would not do anything because they don’t care about their athletes.
Knowing that the AIU said the drugs were discovered in your house in July 2021, when was the first time you heard about it?
The first time I heard about it was when he (Paul) sent me an email that he had terminated my contract, this was after they posted an article online that they saw something in my house after a whistleblower went into my apartment. When they released that article, that was when I knew something was going on and I started to piece everything together. The only person that had access to my apartment was him, so, if they found anything in my apartment, I don’t know what to say, because he was the only one that had the key to the apartment.
The drugs were reportedly found in your apartment on July 13, 2021. Are you saying you didn’t get to know anything about it until December 2021?
That was when they released an article that some things were found in my house, that was when I knew that something was actually going on.
When you saw the article that something was found in your house, what was the next step taken?
When I found out that the article was released, I sent him (Paul) a message, but he already forwarded an email trying to push himself out of everything, that he was so disappointed in me, telling me that my contract with him as my agent had been terminated. When he said that, there was nothing I could do anymore because he said he was no longer my representative.
When did the AIU contact you?
When I came back to the US to sort out some things, I could not get the key to where he(my agent) kept my properties, then I sent him a message asking how I could get access to the place, that was when he gave my number to the AIU and I got a text message that I had to meet with them at a designated place which they sent me the address. The next morning, I had to go have a meeting with them. This was in July 2022.
What does your relationship with Blessing Okagbare have to do with this case? What is your relationship with her?
I think that is one thing, they know that I am close with Blessing and Paul knew Blessing before I got signed to him, so, he already knew more about Blessing and I think that was what he was trying to do, that I know Blessing and whatever he is going to do, he has to involve Blessing to be able to get to me too. So, I think that was what he actually did. When I got to the AIU and I was being questioned, they asked me about my relationship with Blessing and I told them that Blessing is my role model, she is somebody who has represented Nigeria, she is somebody that when you are looking at the fastest women in Africa and in the world, you will call her name. She is someone we all looked up to and me being close to her was because she is a role model to me. When I was signing my contract with PUMA, Paul already knew me through her and I think that was the thing he was trying to hold on to, that “if Blessing is involved in this, then Divine is also involved in this”. That was what he was clicking his finger on and trying to get everything together.
Did the investigators look through your phone to see if you and Blessing had any conversation of this sort?
When I got to the US, my phone was taken away from me, they got access to my email through Google, they went to Apple, they collected my password, my Gmail username, my password, my Yahoo username and password, and they collected all my information and access to my iPhone, they told Apple Store to give them access to my phone, my iCloud password and they found no conversation on my phone, they got evidence from my phone because it wasn’t hidden away from them, I gave them my phone and they didn’t find anything.
Watch out for part 2 of the interview where Oduduru talks about how Nigeria officials rebuffed his plea for support.