PANJIM: The Badminton Association of India (BAI) has resolved to implement an amnesty scheme - VARS (Voluntary Age Rectification Scheme) - inviting players to re-register their accurate dates of birth within a specified 20-day timeframe.
The measure will serves as an effective tool in addressing the pressing issue of age fraud in badminton.
Under the initiative, any player discovered engaging in age fraud subsequent to the amnesty period will face dire consequences, including severe punishments such as a two-year ban from participation, criminal prosecution, and other appropriate legal actions. Furthermore, the BAI intends to extend the scope of punitive measures to encompass not only the culpable players but also their parents and coaches, thereby instilling a sense of collective responsibility and accountability.
The pressing nature of this concern is exemplified by the current presence of more than 2,000 junior players who have submitted ambiguous "Medical Certificates" in lieu of their original birth certificates.
Such discrepancies had sparked significant concern among concerned parents' groups, who had registered numerous complaints during the All India Badminton Ranking Tournaments last season. As a consequence, the BAI took prompt action by suspending eight to ten players found to be in violation of the age regulations.
In a few instances, it was seen that even national gold medal winners and players representing India in age-group tournaments were found to possess dual birth certificates, amplifying the magnitude of the age fraud problem.
The detrimental impact of age fraud on the sport cannot be understated, as it undermines fair competition and discourages promising young athletes from pursuing their dreams.
The introduction of the age rectification scheme and the comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by the BAI is an encouraging and commendable step towards fostering honesty, integrity, and transparency within the system.
Sandeep Heble, Secretary, Goa Badminton Association and Member, BAI's Age Fraud Committee fully supported the vital measures which are expected to eradicate age fraud in badminton. Some academies, coaches might have encouraged this practice in the past but now, parents and players must come forward and register their correct ages during the period of the scheme, and not lead their children the wrong way ,” added Heble.