Rampant age-fudging continued unabated in athletics as 51 youngsters were found over-aged while another 169 avoided the verification test during last month’s National Inter-District Junior Meet in Tirupati, which was touted as one of the biggest talent hunt programmes in the world.

A record 4,500 boys and girls in the under-14 and under-16 age groups from 494 districts competed in the Nidjam event held between November 24 to 26.

But, on the basis of the age verification tests, which included dental examination and Tanner Whitehouse 3 (TW3) procedure, 51 were declared over-age by the Athletics Federation of India while 124 did not turn up at the AFI counter for medical tests after entering their names for the meet.

Another 65 youngsters did not come for the TW3 tests after they turned up for dental examination. The TW3 test is the scientific way to detect age fraud. During the test, a digital x-ray of the left hand (palm and wrist/lower end of forearm) is taken to determine the bone age. The system comprises of the detailed analysis of the two most important bones in TW3: The radius and ulna wrist bones.

“We first called the athletes for dental examination, that is the number of teeth of an athlete, which is never conclusive. So, we do TW3 procedure and based on the digital result from the laboratory, the age of the athlete is calculated,” Rajiv Khatri, AFI’s in-charge for age verification of athletes, was quoted as saying by PTI.

Rajasthan contributed the most number of over-age athletes – 15 – while Uttar Pradesh came second at 10. The offending state units may face the heat from the AFI, who had proposed in its Annual General Meeting in Agra, to suspend the secretary of the association if more than two athletes are found to be over-aged in a national event.

“I have been in this job for around two years and our team picks the young athletes who we think may be over-age and put them through these verification tests. We have professional people, including doctors, in our team,” Khatri said.

“These 124 athletes did not report to us as they must be fearing that they will put through these tests and get caught. Of the athletes who underwent dental examination (counting the number of teeth), 65 did not turn up for X-ray examination (under TW3 procedure).”

Now, the AFI will disqualify all the 240 athletes and the results will be changed accordingly. Athletics has been hit hard by this menace of age-fraud for many years. More than 100 athletes were found over-aged in group meets last year and nearly 100 were again caught for age-fudging during the National Junior Championships at Guntur last month.

The AFI also started the process of biometric registration of athletes to tackle the age-fraud problem. Khatri added, “It is a problem not only in athletics but also in many other sports. But what we do in the AFI is to not try to cover or conceal this issue. We proactively try to catch these athletes who commit age fraud.”