The goof-up that saw 18 Indian athletes being disqualified from the ongoing Asian Youth Games in China on the grounds that they were ‘overage’ could have been the result of confusion in the eligibility rules.
According to the Asian Youth Games technical handbook, boys and girls born between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 1999 were eligible to compete in a majority of the events at the Chinese city of Nanjing, but in a few sports like athletics and weightlifting, the dates were different (January 1, 1996 to December 31, 1998).
The difference in the age eligibility rules for various sports appears to have been the reason for the confusion. Swimming, basketball, badminton, shooting and judo are some of the sports in the Asian Youth Games that have 1996-1998 as the eligible years. However, the technical handbooks for the various sports were available months ahead of the Games.
Orissa’s Dutee Chand, who impressed at the last month’s World Youth Championship in Ukraine where she finished sixth in the 100m and broke the national youth record, and promising athletes like Mohammed Afsal, Praveen Kumar and Malkeet Singh who were named as medal prospects by the national junior coach Rajinder Singh Saini were among the athletes who were born in 1996 and hence ineligible for the Games.
The Athletics Federation of India, clearly embarrassed, has now decided to conduct an enquiry into the issue.
“There seems to be some communication gap somewhere,” Adille Sumariwalla, the AFI President, told The Hindu, on Monday evening. “We had the trial and we selected the team, it was on the basis of our IAAF constitution where the cut-off date for youth is 1996. When we sent our youth team for the World Championship also, it was the same 1996 cut-off. Hence the trials were also held as per 1996 and the team was sent.
“The organisers accepted our entries and sent the visas. Normally, for the entries they don’t accept, they don’t send visas. We sent our athletes because they sent the visas.”
Sumariwalla said he came to know of the new development only on Sunday night.
“Late last night, I got a call that they are accepting only 1997 entries. So, how it became 1997, whether the IOA knew about it, whether the IOA informed us, whether IOA informed us and we didn’t take action…I don’t know because C.K. Valson (the AFI Secretary) is in Moscow (for the World Championships) and Rajinder Singh, who is the chief coach, is in China. So, I really don’t know what has happened,” he said.