Two players expected to boost Nigeria’s women’s basketball team’s chances for a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics have been classified as ineligible by FIBA.
As reported by ESPN, former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams have both been notified by FIBA that they are not qualified to represent Nigeria due to their “substantial involvement” of more than 10 years with Team USA
Ogwumike, the ESPN further reports, is exploring all her options, including a possible application to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.
It is understood the court could expedite a full hearing if both sides agree. FIBA could also allow Ogwumike to participate until there is a hearing.
The Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) has swiftly filed an appeal to FIBA on behalf of Ogwumike and Williams.
The NBBF argued that Ogwumike and Williams are two of the top players they are banking on for a respectable outing in Tokyo.
“We do tacitly believe there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. It is also out rightly discriminatory because players of African descent are approved to play for other countries constantly but the reverse is not the case.” A part of the letter written by the NBBF and obtained by ESPN stated.
Ogwumike and Williams were both given consent by USA Basketball to play for Nigeria having paid an administrative fee of $10,000.
The two players also hold Nigerian passports.
Generally, if players have competed for the United States in FIBA-sanctioned events after having reached their 17th birthday, they are not allowed to play for another country in a FIBA event.
However, according to FIBA’s regulations on player eligibility, the organisation’s secretary-general may authorise a player to compete for the national team of his or her country of origin if this is in the interest of the growth of basketball in that country.
This waiver is what is currently being explored by Nigeria.
As for the IOC who are in charge of the Olympic Games, the rules only require an athlete to be nationalised by the country they are competing for.
They can compete for a different country three years after they competed for their previous country.
Ogwumike last competed internationally for the United States three years ago in the 2018 World Cup.