As many as 91 athletes were found overage during medical screening on the eve of the five-day 36th National Junior Athletics Championships beginning on Saturday at Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Sports Complex.
While screening for age verification for issuing certificates, mandatory for participation in the competition, the medical panel found 83 doubtful cases, seven were found overage outright, and one came without documents, a source in Guwahati told IANS.
The 83 athletes who were categorised in 'doubtful' category will now undergo a laboratory test in a day or two. If it is eventually confirmed that they are indeed overage, they will not be allowed to compete, but if they prove they are underage they would participate.
"The athletes will not be debarred straightaway from competition as that decision could be challenged in a court of law. Therefore, they will be subjected to a lab test before suspension, if required," the source said on condition of anonymity.
Screening of athletes will continue on Saturday and on subsequent days as competitors are still reaching Guhawati. To maintain social distance due to pandemic participants have to wait for long to get their age certificates verified. "It was quite a tiring exercise," said one of the competitors who went through the medical screening and verification of certificates.
Competition at the National Junior Athletics Championships will be conducted in four age group categories –- under-14, under-16, under-18, and under-20.
Overage athletes trying to sneak in with fake certificates has been a perennial problem in Indian athletics.
"The burgeoning issue of overage athletes is overshadowing doping in the age group competitions, taking into account the recent overage cases," said a coach familiar with the issue.
In the 2018 edition of National Junior Championships, held in Ranchi, more than 70 athletes were found doubtful and they had skipped the final medical test. They weren't allowed to compete.
The number of cases increased and crossed the 100 mark in the 2019 edition, held at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.
In the 2019 edition of National Inter-District Athletics Meet, as many as 124 athletes didn't report for medical test while 51 were debarred by the medical panel, as per an Athletics Federation of India circular posted on its website. The erring athletes were mostly from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana.