The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has formed a three-member committee to tackle the issue of age manipulation, but has left the onus on the complainants to provide documentary evidence for proving fraud cases.
It has been alleged by a number of parents that over-aged players compete at the National Championships, depriving genuine kids an opportunity to compete in a level-playing field.
More than 50 parents had submitted a petition to the AITA during the hard court Nationals at the DLTA last month, demanding action against over-age players competing in different age groups.
The AITA, at its recent executive committee, decided to form a committee and has named Puneet Gupta, PF Montes and Vivek Sharma as its members.
However, a note by AITA says, “any complaint as regard to possible age manipulation is to be forwarded to this committee with relevant documentary evidence and a draft of Rs 2000/- as security, so that Committee can take further action”.
When asked why the AITA has left it to the parents or any complainant to provide evidence, the federation’s secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee said, “It’s to ensure that only genuine complaints come up before us.”
“If we don’t do this, every parent whose child will lose a match will come to us, complaining that the winner is overage. It will go on and we have endless complaints. We want only genuine complaints and we are ready to scrutinise them,” Chatterjee said.
But the parents are not detectives who will find documentary evidence against the suspects.
“They have to provide something to prove that so and so is overage and we will scrutinise the evidence which could be a different (fudged) birth certificate or any other document.”
Explaining the rationale behind levying a fee of Rs 2000 on complainants, the AITA official said, “It’s a tedious process. We have to pursue to the matter with competent authorities. And also it will act as a deterrent for frivolous complaints. Only genuine complaints will reach us by this.”
The AITA had also written to the Sports Authority of India (SAI), seeking guidelines to tackle the menace.
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 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 the 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.