Afi considers banning state association secretaries to curb age fudging

Afi considers banning state association secretaries to curb age fudging

In a bid a to clamp down on age-fudging, the Athletics Federation of India has now decided to stop the buck at a top official of the state body which the offending athlete is representing. On the first day of its two-day Annual General Meeting, a proposal was put forward seeking to ban the secretary of the state unit for a year and set up an ad-hoc committee if two or more of its athletes are caught in age manipulation.

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla felt that some state federations were complicit with age manipulators and it was high time to “give a knock” on their heads. “The state federations have to start working and clean up this mess. It’s for them to sort it out at the state level and weed out athletes who are overage before they reach the national meets,” he said at the end of the first day’s proceedings.

The national body asked its affiliated units to conduct the prescribed age verification tests on suspect athletes and scrutinise their documents. Objections were raised by a few state units over the feasibility of conducting the tests but Sumariwalla and AFI Planning Commission Chairman Lalit Bhanot refused to budge.

“We don’t have the funds to conduct age verification tests,” a state official complained. But Sumariwalla snapped back, “Then find someone who can get you funds.”

Age-manipulation and doping are two ills plaguing Indian athletics for decades. At the National Youth Athletics Championships in Raipur this year, 41 competitors failed age verification tests. Despite suspending state bodies in the past, the age-fraud menace doesn’t seem to subside. “We will also be issuing unique identification numbers and getting biometric data. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. In all developing nations, this problem is there. Unless the state becomes strong we cannot eradicate it,” added Sumariwalla.

World Championship bronze medallist Anju Bobby Geroge agreed with AFI’s proposal to punish the state office-bearers. Anju, who unveiled India’s new jersey on Friday, narrated an incident when she caught an athlete running proxy for his younger brother. “Unless such steps are taken, they won’t change. And it won’t happen overnight and will take a few years at least. But this is a step in the right direction,” she said.

Curbing doping was another issue discussed at length during the meeting. The AFI, according to Sumariwalla, has been pushing for criminalising the offence for over five years now. The national body feels the state units need to become more accountable.

“There are some countries where doping is already a criminal offence. I’ll be happy if it happens in India too. We can’t go to every district and find out who’s doping. That is where the state body needs to come in. At the national camps, we have regular tests so there is no way anyone can dope there. We have information that there are certain centres in Haryana that have become a hub for doping and that needs to be dealt with,” said Sumariwalla.