Fifty-one athletes found overaged in National Inter-District Junior Athletics Meet

As many as 169 other participants fled to avoid verification tests during the meet in Tirupati last month.

Players participate at the National Inter District Junior Athletics Meet at S. V. University Stadium in Tirupati on November 24.   -  K. V. Poornachandra Kumar

Fifty-one athletes were found overaged while 169 others fled to avoid verification tests during last month’s National Inter-District Junior Athletics Meet (NIDJAM) in Tirupati, an event touted as one of the biggest talent-hunt programmed in the world.

As many as 4,500 boys and girls — a record — from 494 districts of India participated in the U-14 and U-16 age-group categories in the meet. But on the basis of age-verification tests, which included dental examination and Tanner Whitehouse 3 (TW3) procedure, 51 were declared overage by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and 124 did not turn up at the AFI counter for medical tests after entering their names for the meet.

Sixty-five others did not come for the TW3 tests after turning up for dental examination.

Age tests

The TW3 test is the scientific way to detect age fraud. During the test, a digital X-ray of the left hand (palm and wrist/lower end of forearm) is taken to determine the bone age. The system comprises the detailed analysis of the two most important bones in TW3 — the radius and ulna wrist bones.

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“We first called the athletes for dental examination, that is the number of teeth of an athlete, which is never conclusive. So, we do TW3 procedure and based on the digital result from the laboratory, the age of the athlete is calculated,” Rajiv Khatri, AFI’s in-charge for age verification of athletes, told PTI.

Rajasthan had the largest number of overage athletes — 15 — while Uttar Pradesh came second, at 10. The offending State units may face the heat from the AFI which had decided in its Annual General Meeting earlier this year to suspend the secretary of an association if more than two of its athletes were found to be overaged in a national event.

Fear of getting caught

“I have been in this job for around two years and our team picks the young athletes who we think may be overage and put them through these verification tests. We have professional people, including doctors, in our team,” Khatri said.

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“These 124 athletes did not report to us as they must be fearing that they will put through these tests and get caught. Of the athletes who underwent dental examination, 65 did not turn up for X-ray examination (under TW3 procedure),” Khatri said.

Now, the AFI will disqualify all the 240 athletes and results will be changed accordingly.

Old problem

Athletics has been hit hard by this menace of age-fraud for many years. More than 100 athletes were found overaged in age group meets last year and nearly 100 were again caught for age-fudging during the National Junior Championships at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, last month.

The AFI also started the process of biometric registration of athletes to tackle age-fraud. “It is a problem not only in athletics but also in many other sports. But what we do in the AFI is that we do not try to cover or conceal this issue. We proactively try to catch these athletes who commit age fraud,” Khatri added.