In the early part of my coaching career, I ran an age group program and I saw first hand the difference just one year can make. The older you get, the differences become smaller, but the differences between an 18/19 year old and a 25 year old is pretty significant. When Africans graduate from high school (what we call H.S.) they are generally 19 years old; if you are struggling to validate DOBs, why not just comprise a junior team from high school national champions? Quite a few of the African girls are high school national champions, but for the boys it has now become rare. The African boys (men) are usually athletes who train in a pro group, who have only raced in-country and haven't quite run fast enough to be picked up by an agent and run on the pro circuit. This athlete will say they are much younger than they are, win a youth and/or junior title and that's becomes their ticket to getting signed. This athlete could be in their mid-20s competing in the youth championship against 16/17 year olds. I am sympathetic to the fact that in some cases athletes don't know their true age, but what is most disturbing is that in many cases, the athlete's age is known and/or can be easily approximated to at least within a year. The inside joke is that most Africans do have the equivalent of a birth certificates and/or have a variety of means to determine DOB when it suits their needs. In fact, Africans take age cheating seriously when it comes to competing in-country in age group competitions, but look the other way when it comes competing abroad. What's also disturbing is that there are NGBs, coaches, agents and other athletes that we respect, who are if not complicit in this farce, look the other way. KAA, Simms, O'Connell for example, have all known certain athletes competing in age restricted competitions where over age. I have seem age cheating as blatant as an athlete 'having results on the books' competing for Kenya at one age, 2 years later competing for an Arab Emeritae country under a different name and a DOB making him young than when when he competed for Kenya 2 year ago. This would be an athlete that I know is over age from 3,000 miles away, KAA, coaches and other athletes would have to clearly know this as well. I know that O'Connell and a few others have spoken out against this, but they have not spoken out outside of Africa and certainly have not taken their case to the IAAF.
Age cheating is as much if not more about economics as it is about victory and national pride. Unfortunately there is a double standard, a 3:35 American miler is a star and can earn money on the pro circuit, but a 3:35 African is pass se. That's not fair, but perhaps it is no different than the slew of American 10.2 100m sprinters who can't run on the pro circuit and earn a living. The African age cheating situation has gotten so bad that some promising athletes will purposely not compete in age group or secondary school competitions and in some cases even drop out of school so that their age cannot be determined. What's also a shame is the great number of talented African school age kids we never get to see because grown men are denying them an opportunity. As I have said previously, even with out age cheating, the Africans kids would still kick our butts, but at least the playing field would be fair and perhaps you wouldn't the top 3 finishers in the 'youth' championship go 1:44 in the 800.
Let me end this by saying, I named a few people having absolutely no proof they have directly participated in anything wrong doing; however, I do have enough information to suggest they have looked the other way on a few occasions. The hope is that these individuals get pissed off enough from hearing their name being associated with the appearance of impropriety, stand up and become direct participants (on the record) in solving the problem. Track & field is not a sport based on judgements, it's based on exact measurements and those and those same exact measurements should extend to an athlete's DOB when competing in age restricted competitions.