AIFF defends its Bone Age Determination Programme

The AIFF has come under the scanner Bone Age Determination Programme since Gourav Mukhi was suspended for age fraud last month and the body clarified on Saturday that its method is the best available method in the country.

After receiving the initial rounds of reports for the ongoing TW3 tests, Dr. Vece Paes, chairman of the AIFF Sports Medical Committee, noted that many players’ bone age results had shown readings higher than 13.4 and 15.4, which were the prescribed eligibility benchmarks for players to participate in Sub-Junior League (U-13) and Junior League (U-15), respectively.   -  AIFF

After receiving flak for failing to pull up Gourav Mukhi for age fraud not once, but twice, the All Indian Football Federation released a clarification on Saturday defending its 'Bone Age Determination Programme'.

The AIFF's executive committee, with inputs from industry experts, found that its current bone age determination program -- Tanner-Whitehouse3 (“TW3”) -- is the best available method in the country. The same method is used by other sports bodies, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Sports Authority of India.

After receiving the initial rounds of reports for the ongoing TW3 tests, Dr. Vece Paes, chairman of the AIFF Sports Medical Committee, noted that many players’ bone age results had shown readings higher than 13.4 and 15.4, which were the prescribed eligibility benchmarks for players to participate in Sub-Junior League (U-13) and Junior League (U-15), respectively.

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Dr. Paes opined that this has happened primarily because of the player registrations that the teams had already done, prior to the circulation of the detailed protocol document and as a result of that, teams registered quite a few players who were born in the first half of the calendar year of 2003 (TW3 test cut-off date for Junior League) and 2005 (TW3 test cut-off date for Sub-Junior League).

“Biologically, it is possible that someone’s skeletal maturity will be faster than others which is why the bone age ratings can be higher than others and in some cases the skeletal maturity is slower and hence the ratings can be lower as well, when compared to the chronological age," he said. He also added that the bone age ratings are not meant to be construed as a challenge to the veracity of the chronological age.

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AIFF president Praful Patel said: “The whole point of doing this exercise is to provide a level playing field for all participants, based on bone age/skeletal maturity of the children as per the protocols of the AIFF BADP Guidelines.

"We are not terming/calling anyone cheats or frauds, should the child be ineligible to participate in Hero Sub-Junior League or Hero Junior League, based on the TW3 reports received under the BADP process, because as per the experts’ reports, a child's skeletal maturity can be faster than others and hence may have a higher bone age rating than the required level.”

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To address this issue, the  AIFF League Committee has revised the existing bone age eligibility criteria from ‘13.40’ to ‘14.00’ for the Sub-Junior league and from ‘15.40’ to ‘16.00’ for the Junior league. However, the committee informed the AIFF administration that this adjustment was viewed as a one-time exception only and not to set any precedence of such nature for the future.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das echoed Patel's statement, saying "those players who have become ineligible for Hero Sub-Junior League 2018-19, can be registered outside the registration window, for Hero Junior League 2018-19, provided they meet the eligibility criteria, as set by the AIFF League Committee.”