Yes, teach them that cheating in sports kills talent

Koyonzo High School Rugby Team celebrate victory against Vihiga High School during Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association National chools ball games at Bull Ring in Kakamega county on August 11, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The 2023 national secondary schools games come to a close in Kakamega today with some exciting talking points that can shape our future sporting arena.

The presence of Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) in the showpiece was a sigh of relief for many sports enthusiasts.

It comes when the doping menace continues to rear its ugly head on our sporting talents.

The anti-doping watchdog made an obtuse thought. We need to start the fight at an early age – from primary schools. This will sensitise our budding sports persons on the vice killing the goose that lays our golden egg.

This is paramount given that most of our under 18 and under 20 athletes are students in secondary and primary schools.

These are international competitions like Africa Under 18 Athletics Championships, Africa Cup of Nations (football) Under 20 tournament and World Rugby Under 20 Championships.

There is need for Adak to work closely with Ministry of Education, especially Kenya Secondary Sports Association (KSSA) and the Kenya Primary Schools Association (KPSA) in quest for clean sports.

Such a move will no doubt play a critical role in the fight against doping. Still creating anti-doping awareness in our schools is key. It will save a huge pool of talent from running to waste.

Remember, Kenya has been on the brink of being kicked out of international athletics competitions since last year over rising doping cases among her athletes.

Kenya is among seven countries deemed a ‘Category A’ federation - the highest doping risk - by the Athletics Integrity Unit, meaning athletes from the countries have to undergo at least three tests in 10 months prior to a major event so as to compete.

Apart from doping, another monster gaining momentum in our junior sports scene is age cheating.

This crime has killed careers of many budding talents and even sullied the image of many nations. It has no doubt brought shame to most sports disciplines.

It is sad that some pupils and students – with the support of unscrupulous parents, teachers, coaches and other stakeholders – have engaged in such criminal acts in recent years. It’s no different from doping.

They present forged birth certificates to secure their participation in lower age categories.

We understand some unscrupulous coaches and sports administrators have in the past employed dishonest means to have their over-age athletes make national teams in this age category. It denies our deserving athletes fair play.

Our sports federations must act with fairness and exhibit justice to the young sports men and women. It’s time our schools get rid of dirty businesses like doping and age cheating. Still, it is a good step to teach children while young that cheating doesn’t pay and that indeed, it kills talent!