AFI To Suspend State Unit Secretary If More Than 2 Over-Age Athletes Are Reported In A Year

Agra: In a first, the Athletics Federation of India Friday decided to suspend the secretary of a state association if more than two athletes of that unit are found to be over-aged in a national event.

The decision to fix responsibility of the age-fudging menace, which has afflicted athletics for so many years, to the top office bearer of a state was taken at the AFI’s Annual General Body Meeting here.

Earlier, the state team concerned and the offending athletes themselves were banned from national competitions for two years when over-aged athletes were fielded by the unit, but age fudging has not stopped or decreased over the years.

“In a year, if more than two athletes are found over-aged in a national event, then the secretary of that state association will be suspended for one year,” AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said during the AGM.

“We are going to hold the state responsible because the original entry comes from the state. It is not possible for AFI to go down to districts to find out the over-aged athletes.”

AFI Planning Commission Chairman Lalit Bhanot said the constitution of the national federation will be amended to this effect.

The AFI also included the various ways to be followed by the state associations on how to deal with the menace, including the protocols like the specifics of the radiology test and procedure of the age verification, in a manual released during the meeting.

Last year, a total of 115 athletes were found to be over-aged in National Youth and Junior Championships combined. Uttar Pradesh was the worst offender with more than 30 over-aged athletes during last year.

Bhanot said that the process to issue a Unique Identification Number with biometrics to all the athletes registered with the AFI has already started.

India’s lone World Championships medallist long jumper Anju Bobby George, who also attended the AGM, said the issue of fielding over-age athletes has been a problem with most of the states.

“Some of the states are not aware or may be neglecting this problem. I have seen many athletes who are over-age. In some cases, even elder brothers are running for younger ones. I caught one last year,” Anju said.

“I saw one fellow with big muscle and moustache running away. I caught him and we immediately notified the AFI. It was U-20 championships and the fellow was running for the younger one who was working with the Army,” said the 2003 World Championships bronze medallist.

“The states should be very careful as AFI cannot handle all the issues. I have suggested that we should come up with a nationwide unique identification number for each athlete where we can feed all the data from the beginning like the date of birth, performance and full name. We need to address this, otherwise it is a problem for the younger generation.”

The AGM also discussed the issue of doping, another menace which has been afflicting athletics, which AFI President Sumariwalla described as an issue which needs to be tackled with stringent measures.

“The AFI has a zero tolerance against doping and we have been the first NSF to advocate doping being made a criminal offence. As an IAAF Council Member, I know the issue of the Russian federation being banned due to large scale doping. If doping in India also continues like this, the country may also be banned in future,” he said.

“But it should be made clear that the large (doping) numbers are mainly due to doping at district and state levels and at the departmental events. Dope tests at the national camps are very strict and there are very few dope positive cases among the campers. States must get involved in curbing doping. AFI has now got NADA to come to test at state level meets.”

In another decision, Chhattisgarh was suspended for six months for poor organisation of National Youth Championships last year and an ad hoc committee was formed.

By Philem Dipak Singh