Over-age athletes stopped from competing in junior nationals

The over-age issue raised its ugly head at the 31st National junior athletics championship which ended in Ranchi on Wednesday. Seventy-two athletes were found to have misrepresented their age and were debarred from the event.

Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla blamed the National Games for spoiling the athletes' preparations for international competitions.   -  K MURALI KUMAR

The over-age issue raised its ugly head at the 31st National junior athletics championship which ended in Ranchi on Wednesday. Seventy-two athletes were found to have misrepresented their age and were debarred from the event.

“I don’t think we have had such a big number before…72 athletes were found over-aged at the start. We did not allow them to compete,” said C.K. Valson, the Secretary of the Athletics Federation of India on Thursday evening.

“We found out that their certificates were all fake and that they had tried all sorts of things, brought Photostat copies, scanned copies etc. We did a few medical tests too. And around half of the number admitted their guilt and went back.”

NO ACTION TAKEN

However, all of them went scot-free.

“If they had competed in the championship, we could have taken action. They did not take part. Before the events started, they were excluded, so we did not take any action.”

Valson said that there were no notable names in the bunch which had been caught. “The leading athletes will not come into this because they know that we all know them. It is all the fresh batch of athletes who are doing this, they may be outstanding in their own State.”

But Valson was unable to provide a clear break-up of the States which led the dubious list. The sports schools, which are supposed to guide and groom talent, are proving to be a problem in this issue.

“When children enter sports schools, between the age of six and 10, these things are done. They know when they do it initially, no one will know,” explained the AFI Secretary. “And that is why athletes fade away after good performances in the initial years.”

However, none of the athletes from Kerala, which retained the overall team title, figure in the list of athletes caught.

FOLLOW THE KERALA MODEL

“Every athlete in Kerala is registered and given a number…other States don’t have such a system. It will be nice if all the States follow that model,” said Valson.

This year, despite the flood situation in Tamil Nadu stopping many athletes from travelling to Ranchi, the number of records has been impressive. “We had 11 national records and 26 meet records. That was commendable, last year it was seven or eight,” he said.

JUNIORS FOR SAF GAMES

The AFI plans to virtually field a junior team in next year’s SAF Games as the senior athletes would be preparing for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“We don’t want to risk our top athletes who are preparing for the Olympics. There will be a few seniors but the team will be loaded with juniors,” said Valson.