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Anti-doping awareness program for athletes at Africa Youth Games

2014-05-28 10:11:00 AIPS

The Head of the African Zone VI Regional Anti-Doping Organisation, Andrew Kamanga.

GABORONE, May 27, 2014 - The scepter of doping is the sword of Damocles that hangs over every sport. In recent times, global sporting superstars who have multiple world championships have fallen foul of anti-doping laws, casting a shadow over their superb achievements and causing the public to now view exemplary sporting acts with an air of suspicion buzzing in the backs of their minds.

This situation, unfortunate as it is, is the reality that many sports find themselves being forced to contend with these days. It is far from ideal, and it is the drive to take action that has led to the Anti-Doping Awareness Campaign currently being held concurrently with the 2nd African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana.

The African Youth Games feature athletes between the ages of 14-18, and serves as a platform for many of them to launch their careers onto the global stage. The Head of the African Zone VI Regional Anti-Doping Organisation, Andrew Kamanga, believes holding the awareness programs for the athletes this early in their careers, should give them a firm understanding of the dangers of doping.

“The aim of this program is to educate young athletes about the dangers of doping in sports. We are targeting particularly younger athletes because we want to safeguard their health as well as their sports careers.” He said

And it is a wonderfully structured program, complete with souvenirs for athletes who show a firm grasping of the material available. At the center, I met several dedicated staff, who greets you courteously, then lead you to play a ten-question computer game designed to test your knowledge of the doping world. Several athletes and officials kept arriving to engage during my time there, most leaving with caps, books, and several other souvenirs.

Lea Cleret, with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) who helps co-ordinate the program- explained that every athlete or official who managed eight correct answers earned a souvenir. The purpose is to serve as a remembrance of their participation in the program.

Though a noble effort, it is difficult to gauge how much the athletes would take to heart. There are always those intent on winning at all costs, and it is those who must be weeded out with random testing. Yet that is not happening at these games, with the authorities settling for awareness and education.

Rodney Swigelaar, African Director of WADA, explained the situation. Cost is the number one barrier, the biggest challenge to such an endeavor. Mr Swigelaar enumerated several dangers of the act of doping, which is not just a challenge to the athlete’s career, but to their lives as well. It is that danger, as well as the drive to keep sport clean and fair, that fuels WADA’s campaign against doping in sport.

The one constant that kept popping up during my interactions with these officials was the role of the media in promoting the anti-doping initiative. It is a sentiment I hardly disagree with, as nothing drives home a message as powerfully as the media can. It is something we need, for our collective sanity. So that the next time Usain Bolt whizzes down the track for another gold medal, or Yelena Isinbayeva grabs her millionth pole vault accolade, we can all celebrate a job well done; rather than wonder in the back of our minds whether five years down the line all these achievements would be found out to be fraudulent. (By Okine Godwin Nii-Armah)

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