Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Age Fraud In Badminton: Aggrieved Parents Write To Governing Body

Age Fraud In Badminton: Aggrieved Parents Write To Governing Body

Over 2,000 junior players with inconclusive ‘Medical Certificates’ instead of original birth certificates in the country; listing ‘home’ as birth place instead of naming hospital one of the ways in which parents and coaches cheat; Badminton Association of India (BAI) says they are working on SOPs to curb menace.

Image For Representative Purpose only.
Image For Representative Purpose only. Twitter

The Yonex-Sunrise All India Sub Junior Ranking badminton tournament is being held in Jaipur from February 5-12. Coinciding with this key event, the issue of rampant age fraud in Indian badminton has been highlighted to the Badminton Association of India (BAI) by a group of over 80 parents. (More Badminton News)

The group, called Swacch Badminton India (SBI), has listed its concerns and demands in a letter to the BAI, and not for the first time. ‘Outlook’ has a copy of that letter.

It says, “We have come together seeing the sorry state of affairs of Sub-Junior/Junior Badminton in India. When our children participate in State and National level tournaments, we have observed that “Age Fraud” menace is widely and deeply rooted in the Sub-Junior/Junior Badminton India landscape. Due to this problem, a lot of promising children are getting discouraged.” 

BAI general secretary Sanjay Mishra admitted to ‘Outlook’ that age fraud was an issue, and that the governing body was taking it seriously. But he requested aggrieved parents for some time as rule changes cannot happen overnight. 

“The BAI is working together with SAI (Sports Authority of India) and legal advisors on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to curb this problem,” Mishra said. “SAI being a government organization means a big support for us in case there are any hurdles in the implementation of the SOPs.” Mishra said the BAI would need about six months to bring in some changes.  

“To lay down new guidelines would take a certain amount of time,” he said. 

SBI wants penal action against offenders, and governance reforms. For one, they want the BAI to check documents beyond the birth certificate or medical certificate before certifying a player’s age, such as parents’ marriage certificate, sonography test records, maternity/ paternity leave records and the child’s school documents. 

BAI Letter
Portions of the letter sent by 'Swacch Badminton India', a group formed by parents of juniors campaigning against age fraud, to the Badminton Association of India (BAI), on January 17.

“Merely relying on Medical Certificate and/or Birth Certificate has proven to be ineffective to weed out age fraud activities in Badminton,” the SBI letter says. 

“Additional documents should be called for, along with BAI form, Birth Certificate and Medical Certificate, to be used to cross check stated date of birth in the birth certificate.”  

SBI is clear that it is not the overage children who are at fault but their parents, coaches and the local municipal authorities and doctors who can be bribed for fake age documents. 

The Loopholes
Currently, the BAI, in keeping with SAI guidelines, allows players whose birth has not been registered within one year to submit a ‘Medical certificate’ (MC). But MCs are not conclusive. They only provide an estimated age of a player. For example, one of the MCs ‘Outlook’ saw said the player in question was “about” 13 years. The very word “about” is a red flag. At that age, even a 15-year-old can be called “about 13 years”, but he would have huge advantages competing with genuine 13-year-olds. According to SBI, a staggering 2192 junior boys and girls are competing on the basis of MCs, and not official birth certificates. 

The other loophole is listing “home” as the place of a player’s birth. There is no law that prevents people from delivering children at home. Some parents take advantage of this, even though most childbirths take place in hospitals. By claiming a home birth, they don’t have to mention a hospital in their records. This makes investigation harder. 

“We have cases of doctors’ children being born at ‘home’,” says a parent who is a member of the SBI, his words bearing traces of sarcasm and outrage.    
Late registration is another common occurrence. While most Indian states require birth to be registered within a year, and in some cases a month, many badminton players have done it several years after their stated date of birth. This allows them to go for the convenient MC option. 

Greed, Myopia Of Parents And Coaches
At the root of the problem is the temptation to get ahead at any cost. Getting ahead means incentives for that player, his or her coach, that particular state and effectively the whole system. But then, as a parent member of the SBI says, the player who cheats will never have a clean conscience, even if he or she becomes a world champion. Not to mention that they will mess with many lives in the process of achieving ill-gotten success. 

As for BAI, the parent says it is not that difficult to determine a player’s age given the technology available, as long as the motivation is there. “We are in the 21st century where we can send satellites to Mars with precision. There are ‘n’ number of tools available to determine age. The only thing missing is intent,” he says. “At this rate, there might be a day when, like our wrestlers a few days ago, there would be badminton players demonstrating at Jantar Mantar.”


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