A livid Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Monday decided to take Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to task for the embarrassment it caused to the country after 18 overaged athletes were barred from the Nanjing Asian Youth Games and said it would recover the money spent by it on the athletes’ airfare.

Squarely blaming the AFI for the shocking incident, SAI Director-General Jiji Thomson said that the government had spent around Rs. 10 lakh for the airfare of the disqualified athletes who are returning home from China.

Only Under-17 athletes — those born in January 1997 or later — were eligible to take part in the Asian Youth Games but the AFI included 18 athletes, who were born in 1996 in the track and field team of 27.

“It’s a huge embarrassment. We are terribly annoyed by the development. We will definitely seek an explanation from the AFI and will also recover the amount spent on their airfare, which is almost Rs. 10 lakhs. We are going to the recover this money from the AFI,” Mr. Thomson said.

“We will have to take them (AFI) to task, need to ask them why they did this? The chances of our athletes are gone,” he added.

The AFI claimed that it had followed International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules according to which 1996-born players were eligible. But they forgot that the Games were being held as per the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules.

“This is exclusively the right of federation, prerogative of the federation to select the athletes and so they are bound to follow the rules.

“In this case, the federation had selected the athletes and corresponded directly to the organising committee. Based on that visas were issued to them. We only arranged for their travel, that’s the only responsibility of the SAI. They (AFI) should have observed the rules,” Mr. Thomson said.

IOA acting chief Vijay Kumar Malhotra said that he has sought an explanation from the AFI as to how this goof-up had happened.

“I have asked the AFI to explain how this incident has happened. It has caused embarrassment to the country,” he said.

“Since the IOA is under suspension, the AFI sent the list of athletes directly to Nanjing organisers but the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) sent to me, saying that the IOA will have to do official clearing of the names of athletes. So I sent back the list to the OCA with necessary signature.

“The AFI sent the list late also but the OCA decided to accept it. Now the organisers in China are saying that some athletes are overaged. It was for AFI to check the eligibility of the athletes and we (the IOA) have nothing to do with this,” he said.

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