Nigeria’s minister for youth and sports development Solomon Dalung has said persistent issues of age cheating at competitions was due to long years of youth sports programme abandonment.
Dalung made the disclosure to newsmen in Ilorin noting, that athletes eligible during the years sports were abandoned looked for avenues to showcase their talents.
The minister spoke against the backdrop of disqualification of over 500 athletes at the ongoing National Youth Games (NYG) holding at the University of Ilorin.
“The records of the discovery of over 500 overage athletes should not be the preoccupation now, let us not forget where we are coming from. The NYG was abandoned for some years meaning that those who were eligible to compete within those abandoned years were denied their right,” Dalung said.
“So, if we have such things happening now, it is a reflection of the neglect. Talents that were not given the opportunity to express themselves and they have the zeal and determination can lead to what we see as age malpractice,”
“What will you do to people denied participation for years? They will have to struggle to have a way to showcase themselves, that is what is manifesting now,” Dalung said.
Dalung added, “We are trying to ensure that we entrench age policy in the NYG because globally, youths are defined from age 15 and the Youth Olympics is for 15 years and below,”
“But Nigeria has been toying around with the issue of age. This is because we are trying to align with our constitution which talks about taking responsibility at the age of 18. But the National Youth Policy talking about 18-35 and fitting into the global architecture of sports.
“So, what we have here is that we are battling with our past because if you committed injustice against a generation, it will take you time to address it.”
The 4th edition of NYG commenced September 7 and scheduled to end September 17 with over 3,800 athletes participating.
The Games were after the first edition in 2013 abandoned for two years before the second and third editions held in 2016 and 2017 respectively.