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Cheats pay a price

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ROSIE Ruiz Vivas may be one of the most famous cheaters in sports, but she's certainly not the only one.

Vivas is a Cuban American runner who on April 21, 1980 ostensibly came in as the first place female competitor in the 84th Boston Marathon with a record time of 2:31:56. However, race officials determined that she had not completed the entire 26.2 mile course, but had registered for the race and later jumped in from the crowd and sprinted to the finish.

Since organised sports began, athletes have resorted to drastic and extralegal methods to achieve notoriety from taking drugs to taking out the competition.

Some do it for a quick laugh, others for a quick buck. But whatever their motives or methods, they tend to get caught.

For our annual primary school athletics meet, some schools have resorted to these cunning tactics for glory.

Fielding overage students is the common flaw and this year organisers have come down hard.

A new system was been put in place to screen students at the FMF Chow-sponsored event after some overage participants competed in past games.

It even drew the attention of the Ministry of Education warning teachers of the consequences.

But in most cases, it is the innocent student who is tainted with cheating.

Fiji Primary Schools Athletics Association secretary Patrick Bower said team coaches, who are mostly teachers, were the one's to blame.

"At this level, the athlete is in the hands of the officials.

"It is the officials that have the final say as to what athlete gets into the marshal area before going onto the field," he said.

Bower said it all came down to the sincerity of officials and athletes to make a better level playing field.

"Honesty is always a problem at any games, be it the FMF Chow Games or the Olympics. We have asked officials for honesty," he said.

Bower said the Education Ministry was playing a lead role in eradicating such incidents.

"The Ministry of Education has spoken and has set out how critical it is that the districts are honestly represented in regards to their age."

"They (Ministry of Education) have also monitored the names that the teams are giving for the national finals. What we have put in place on the entry forms is that the birth certificates are verified by the head teachers of the schools for the zone and district meet.

"When a student is selected to participate at the national finals, an Education officer endorses the birth certificates to ensure they are the right athletes.

"Of course when they get to Suva they can change the athletes which have happened in the past. And we're only asking that honesty prevails."

Bower added they were dealing with something serious.

"It is a character flaw that is obviously with the officials that are looking after the athletes to allow this into the games.

"As a result, the character flaw is being put into the child's life which is a serious offence. We don't want a game that is producing cheats at the end of the day.

"This is the importance the games is to bring the officials and athletes to a common ground and display our integrity and lift it to the next level."

The Ministry of Education warned teachers and team officials of the consequence of being penalised under the Public Service Commission rules.

"The Ministry wishes to remind teachers and team officials at the game that the safety and welfare of students must be top priority at all times," the ministry said in a press statement.

"This requires being alert and vigilant whilst being with the students. Furthermore, the Ministry wishes to remind all participating teachers that it will not tolerate any dishonest practice.

"The spirit of healthy competition must prevail throughout the game. As teachers, all actions and decisions made ought to be guided by the PSC Code of Conduct and the Teachers Code of Ethics.

"Any breach of this would result in disciplinary action."

The ministry said that moral values must be upheld at all times.

"The Ministry of Education includes sports in the school curriculum and encourages the participation of students in it because the ministry's vision is to educate the child holistically for a peaceful and prosperous Fiji.

"While the ministry fully supports sports, it wishes to emphasize that equally important are the moral values and ethical standards that can be learnt from sports.

"Values are kept and passed on, through it being regularly practised on the sports field and in our daily lives.

"The outcome would be the moulding of honest, disciplined and virtuous future citizens of Fiji. It is sad, to say the least, that competition has reached such intensity at school level, that these values are often ignored as long as victory is achieved.

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