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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 10:32, September 02, 2006
Roundup: Fears of age cheating grips Kenyan athletes
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Fears of rampant age cheating among Kenyan junior athletes prior to this year's World Junior Championships which were held in Beijing, China last month were blown open after two Kenyan runners were busted by government officials sending panic to the athletics fraternity.

Kenya's Sports Minister Maina Kamanda unearthed the scandal after investigations, which he commissioned, found two leading junior athletes in possession of two passports bearing different names and dates of births.

Thomas Longosiwa was caught with his pants down and shamed before rolling TV cameras and journalists shuffling note books by none other than Kenya's indefatigable sports minister, at the national junior team's training camp at Kasarani in Nairobi during the ceremony to hand over the national flag to the Kenyan contingent for the Beijing championships.

Lengosiwa who was later dropped from the junior team, which was then preparing for world championships scheduled for Beijing last month was said to have two passports; one indicating that he was born in 1982 while another indicated he was born in 1988.

The junior athlete was in the Kenyan junior team which won the overall title in the world cross country championships in Fukuoka, Japan in April this year.

Another athlete, Emmanuel Chemer heeded the minister's amnesty and presented himself and surrendered his two passports while pointing an accusing finger at "a senior police officer" in the process.

The runners, both of whom were to represent Kenya in the 10,000m at the games were axed from the team, leaving only one athlete to carry the mantle.

"I had lost in the senior trials for the African Championships and thought that the only way to participate in a serious international competition this year was to feign youth and run for my country in at the World Youth Championships," he owned-up.

Longosiwa was expected to represent Kenya in the 10,000m and 5,000m in Beijing. The minister's move came after his arrival from Monaco, the headquarters of the IAAF, where it is believed that president Lamine Diack had expressed his personal misgivings about the issue of age - cheating among Kenyan athletes.

He implored upon the minister to use his ministerial position to access government documents, which could assist in flushing out age cheats.

Wasting no time, Kamanda stormed Kasarani hostels armed with details stating that Longosiwa was a holder of passports bearing serial numbers A894001 under the name Thomas Pkemoi Loriongosiwa indicating that he was born on January 14, 1982 and the other 972966 under Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa, which showed he was born in Pokot on May 14, 1988.

Longosiwa, with a personal best of 28:10 in 10,000m, had no option but to own up.

During the dramatic arrest, the athlete protested his innocence and said his Kenyan manager based in Spain had helped him to acquire the first passport, which shows him as having been born in 1982.

Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat and Secretary-General David Okeyo exonerated the body from blame saying that they relied on government documents as the only way of determining one's age.

They explained that the matter was brought to the fore after an anonymous letter was written to the Ministry of Sports, which then conducted discreet investigations, but maintained that had it been brought to their attention, they would have taken action as well.

"We use an athlete's birth certificate as the only document of verification in the acquisition of a passport and it is not within our mandate to start questioning the authenticity of the paper, which anyway, is a valid government document," Kiplagat told Xinhua by telephone on Friday.

"It is upon Longosiwa to explain to the world how he came in possession of two passports. We also call for the arrest of all those implicated," he added.

Complaints about age cheating have been raised in the past World Junior Championships.

Kenyan officials have consistently raised hue and cry about some "juniors" from unnamed countries who never seemed to grow, as they compete in the same age bracket during every championships.

Longosiwa's debacle raises pertinent questions with the most fundamental being that of who assisted the youngster to obtain the second passport.

Also to disturb the minds of Kenyans will be, and of which they will never get an answer to, the author of the letter to the IAAF President and whose content seems to have been factual.

Kenya went on to clinch the overall title in Beijing with six Gold, six silver and three bronze medals, beating hosts China, the United States, Estonia and Russia in the process.

"We do not need over-age runners to make us triumphant," were the minister's remarks while receiving the world conquering team in Nairobi.

Two former Kenyans now holding Bahrain passports were arrested on July 7 and questioned over alleged age falsification.

The world junior championships are restricted to athletes aged 16 to 17 years, while the junior men's race at the world cross country event is restricted to competitors of 18 and 19.

Source: Xinhua

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