New Delhi, November 2: The AITA has recognised the urgent need to tackle the serious issue of age fraud during the National tennis championships but anticipating litigation, it has expressed helplessness to address the menace and is seeking guidelines from the government.
The recent hard courts national championship at DLTA was rocked by allegations that several over-aged players were competing in various age groups, denying a level-playing field to genuine kids. The aggrieved parents had signed a petition during the championship and demanded appropriate action from the National Federation.
Acknowledging the concerns, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) discussed the matter at its recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Kolkata. "We don't know what to do if we make someone (suspects) undergo the medical tests to establish the real age and it is challenged in the court and the court sets aside the findings. What will we do then?" AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee said, explaining the predicament. "That's why we will ask the ministry to provide the guidelines."
An AITA Executive Committee member informed that a committee has been formed which will soon start looking into the complaints.
Recently, Siddhi Khandelwal, the national champion in the Under-12 category, was taken off the AITA Under-12 rankings after a confusion over her date of birth. Her parents are said to have ostensibly submitted a fake document to AITA, which shows her birthday as November 6, 2005, instead of November 6, 2004. This means that she participated in the U-12 Nationals in May this year - and became its champion - at the age of 12 years and six months.
The National Sports Code (2011) has made provisions to tackle the issue and approved the guidelines, circulated via a letter by the then joint secretary Injeti Srinivas on November 25, 2009.
The guidelines stipulated that the Federation should resort to medical examination of an athlete whenever doubt arises with regard to the age of an athlete on account of his or her physical appearance, receipt of any complaint or any other valid ground, which should be duly communicated to the athlete.
It further stated that the Federation should ensure that the medical tests include physical examination, dental examination and radiological examination at a credible hospital, preferably a government. If an athlete contest the findings of the medical test in question, it would be incumbent upon the Federation to arrange for a re-examination, preferably at a reputed government hospital.
In the event of a conclusive proof that an athlete has committed an age fraud, he or she should be banned from participating in any sporting event for a period of two years on the first detection and for five years on any subsequent detection.
The guidelines also stipulated that Federation should conduct random verifications at regular intervals. The Code is though silent on what should be done if the findings are challenged in the court and if the findings are set aside by the judiciary.