AFI: State secretary to be held accountable for age-fudging

If athletes are found to be over-aged in a national-level sports event, the secretary of the corresponding State association will be suspended.

Adille Sumariwalla: “If doping in India also continues like this, the country may also be banned in future.”   -  Getty Images for IAAF

Chhattisgarh Athletics Association was suspended and West Bengal issued show-cause notice as the Athletics Federation of India’s annual general meeting here became a day of chastisement for State associations on Friday.

“We have decided to suspend the federation, form an ad-hoc body and give it six months to conduct fresh elections and find a new set of office-bearers. We cannot keep giving warnings and also allotting competitions,” AFI Planning Committee chairman Lalit Bhanot said categorically.

The 2019 National Youth Championships in February had been slammed for poor facilities and organisation and also racked with age-fraud controversy. The State is supposed to host the next National Games but athletes and officials had complained of poor arrangements at the 2017 national cross country championships as well.

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West Bengal, meanwhile, was issued notice for pulling out of hosting the national Inter-State Championships without any satisfactory reason. “We have changed venues before but never been forced to change the dates. Other than a natural calamity or Force Majeure, no other reason can be acceptable.

“We have had to postpone the tournament, the last qualifying event for the World Championships, to end August (27-30) in Lucknow. Once they reply, we can suggest to the State Olympic Association to rethink their affiliation also,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said.

The AFI top management made no secret of its displeasure at the lack of accountability and performance at the grassroots. “A vast majority of doping and age-fraud issues happen at the State and district levels and it is the state body’s responsibility to ensure it doesn’t happen. If it does, they have to pay the price,” Bhanot slammed. The AFI has provisioned for a one-year suspension of the secretary if there are more than two cases of over-age athletes from a State, a decision that saw many protesting to no avail.

In fact, the State units were squarely blamed for most of the ills in Indian athletes. “It is not the job of the AFI to prepare athletes. The international federation only conducts events but we have taken this responsibility because the States were not doing their job — identifying athletes and training them, providing good competition and getting good coaches.

“They have to conduct district level meets and provide a strong foundation to athletes before they join the elite ranks. What we do at national level, you have to do in States — scrutinise and conduct tests,” Bhanot added even as Sumariwalla cautioned that there was increasing pressure from IAAF and WADA to get Indian athletics in order.

The AFI also unveiled new kits for Indian athletes with the legendary Sriram Singh and Anju Bobby George doing the honours.