There were threats, calls from ministers and parents said that they would go to the police or to courts but the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) stood firm.
In a move that could act as a guide to national federations in other sports, the TTFI lured about 50 overaged players to voluntarily come clean on their age and then handed them a one-year ban a couple of weeks ago.
And a few table tennis players who did not voluntarily disclose their correct age before the stipulated grace period, including Bengal’s Sutirtha Mukherjee – the women’s No. 1 till December – were debarred for two years after the TTFI conducted its own investigation.
“The 50 players who were debarred for one year, will be allowed to play in their proper category next year. They have given both their manipulated certificates and the original certificates,” said the TTFI Secretary Dhanraj Choudhary on the sidelines of the National Games in Kochi.
“And in case of international players who had won medals, their medals would be taken back but we have decided not to take back the prize-money they had won as they are juniors.”Threatening calls
But Choudhary admitted that the association had to face a lot of difficulties while acting firm on the issue. “It was very difficult. We were under so much stress, so many phone calls, many threats, ministers were calling, influential people were calling, people said they would go to the court, to the police,” he said.
“But the power given by the executive board and the determination of our president (Prabhat C. Chaturvedi) who offered a lot of suggestions, helped us resolve the problem. Now, I’m the happiest person.”
He revealed that 90 per cent of the overaged cases came from the West Bengal and the North Bengal associations.
So, shouldn’t action be taken against these associations?
“This year we have not taken such a step but if it continues, in future, we will also penalise the State association,” said Choudhary. “Next year, we will be more vigilant and we have also fixed the responsibility with the State associations. Now, the State associations will be responsible to check the genuineness of the certificates.
“And since it is parents and coaches, and not junior players, who are guilty in these cases, even coaches may suffer punishment in future.”