Adv Daryl Newton

Adv Daryl Newton
BA(law) LLB (UWC) LLM (Georgetown)
Advocate of the High Court of South Africa

Playing Fair in Africa: A Review of Age-Cheating and Doping


 Peer pressure, personal and parental ambition and the opportunity to cheat has created a fertile ground in Africa for cheating in sport. Then came the era of professionalisation which changed cheating into an industry. This paper looks at the prevalence of age-cheating in Africa and attempts to determine the impact of this phenomena on sport. It illustrates that a few months’ age advantage, by athletes born in the same year, can have a profound effect upon the success of that athlete in later years. This is called ‘the Matthew effect’. Both intentional as well as innocent age-cheating provides an unfair advantage which is gained at the expense of the honest athlete. FIFA has used the MRI test in football to determine the skeletal age of athletes. The technology is not widely available in Africa and cannot on its own mitigate the problem.

Doping is an attempt by the athlete to gain a similar advantage over competitors. The international controls are much more intensive than in the case of age cheating. But still it remains a problem. The WADA Anti-Doping Code is a complex document which requires extensive infrastructure as well as technology to implement effectively. This is lacking in Africa and exacerbates the problem.

Controls, in itself, are not sufficient. Africa needs a more structured campaign to reach the hearts and minds of all its athletes. The concept of ‘fair play’ must be ingrained in the ethos of all sport. Cheating will always be part of sport, just as it will always be part of society. However, it can be mitigated by a two- pronged approach, namely effective controls more suited to African localised conditions, and a focused campaign to internalise the fundamental values in sport.

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