Root out age cheating

The disclosure by Athletics Kenya (AK) that it is investigating close to 26 cases of age-cheating among local athletes dating back to 2016 should be a wake-up call to all agencies involved in the fight against the vice.

Even more disturbing is that the suspects being investigated for age-cheating are medalists from the age-group competitions dating back eight years ago. Among the athletes being investigated are those who competed in the 2016 World Athletics Under-20 Championships held in Bydgoszcz, Poland, the 2017 World Athletics Under-18 Championships held in Nairobi, the delayed 2020 World Athletics Under-20 Championships held in 2021 in Nairobi, and from the 2022 World Athletics Under-20 Championships held in Cali, Colombia.

The situation requires all of us to work together to save our athletics from falling captive to age-cheats out to make a quick kill out of young athletes.

Happening at a time Kenya is fighting to contain the doping menace, the vice is threatening to wipe out gains made in the fight against cheating in sports.

AK, Sports and Education ministries, and other government agencies should move swiftly to address the root cause of the problem, and to punish those responsible.

Just like doping, acts of age-cheating thrives due to complicit immigration officials, coaches, athletes, parents, schools, competition officials, teachers and some AK officials.

To fight the vice, we must take lessons from the fight against doping. Because Kenya failed to act quickly when cases of doping started emerging, the country lost a golden opportunity to stop the vice. Consequently, Kenya twice came close to being banned from international competitions – in 2016 just before Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games, and in 2022 just before the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.

Although Kenya remains in Category ‘A’ of countries where doping is most prevalent, a lot of measures have been taken to curb the doping menace.

Kenya needs to apply a similar multi-agency approach to swiftly deal with age-cheating among our future stars.