BCCI finds way to tackle age fraud

The BCCI will seek assistance of overseas experts and digital X-rays to pick genuine players for age-group tournaments from the upcoming season.

New Delhi: In an unprecedented move in Indian sports to eliminate age manipulation, the BCCI will seek assistance of overseas experts and digital X-rays to pick genuine players for age-group tournaments from the upcoming season.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has, thus, become the first Indian sports body to embrace the virtually fool-proof TW3 (Tanner- Whitehouse 3) bone age maturation process, which has been accepted globally as the “most accurate and convenient” amongst various agedetermination methods.

Veteran sports medicine expert Ashok Ahuja, now a consultant with the BCCI for its new Age Verification Programme (AVP), said that no Indian sports federation has ever taken these steps to check widespread age manipulation in various competitions.

“The BCCI is the first sports body in India to implement the TW3 Method. A single digitally-taken x-ray on the lower end of the forearm of teenagers up to 16-and-a-half years will determine their exact age. The lower arm comprises 21 bones and 13 of them will be tested and analysed,” Ahuja, a former head of department (sports medicine) at the Patiala-based National Institute of Sports (NIS), told MAIL TODAY . “This is a one- time test and it’ll not be repeated in a player’s entire career. Once he is certified as below 16 years for an under-16 tournament, his age will accordingly be calculated for the higher age- group tournaments like under-19 and under-25,” the doctor who served NIS for 40 years explained.

Approximately 900 cricketers will be tested under the TW3 method for the 2012-13 domestic season, and the BCCI has begun the process with nationwide workshops being conducted by the Board’s anti-doping consultant Vece Paes and Ahuja, besides others.

For coordination purposes, the BCCI has set up a full-fledged AVP Department, headed by Paes, at its headquarters at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

The need to have foolproof tests arose as age manipulation has taken notorious proportions, with players, with active assistance from parents, coaches and schools, often produce fake date of birth certificates.

It has been globally accepted that bone maturity at the wrist is complete by 17 years. Therefore, age determination by xrays of the wrist is accurate only up to this age. The TW3 tests will be conducted on players for the BCCI- conducted under-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy.

The shortlisted players will go to BCCIaccredited radiological centres for x-rays.

The radiologists will then e-mail the jpeg/ dicom images of the digital x- rays to the BCCI AVP Department as well as the Board’s consultant radiologists. If the x-ray films are not digital, the jpeg/ dicom images will be burned on DVD/CD to be couriered to the BCCI office.

The AVP Department will then randomly send the x- rays to any two of the five foreign radiologists already identified. They will analyse the x- rays, determine the age of players and send their final reports to the BCCI. Their word will be final.

But if there is a difference of opinion, the view of a third foreign expert will be sought and the issue will be put to rest.

“The x- rays will be sent abroad because we don’t want to do any rating [analysis of the bone] to maintain neutrality. The entire process is time consuming, but is authentic,” stressed Ahuja.

“The age shown by TW3 method could vary by six months, either more or less. So, for borderline cases, players who are up to four months older than 16 years would be allowed to play in under-16 tournaments, but not older than that,” he clarified.

“The state associations can use this method for players competing in under-14 tournaments.”

BCCI’s state associations will supervise the process of conducting x- rays, which will be done only at radiological centres accredited by the BCCI.

It is learnt that Apollo, with which the Board already has tied up, and Fortis are in the race for official accreditation as they have hospitals in almost all major cities. This is being done to ensure a standardised protocol and consistency in methodology, accuracy in interpretation, and transparency in the process.

WHAT IS TW3 SYSTEM?

The authors have developed a system of skeletal maturity based on the assessment of bone age derived from the allocation of individual scores to 13 epiphyses in the hand and wrist The assessment is based on both the presence and alteration in shape of the epiphyses as they develop to maturity.

In this method, there are separate scores for the radius, ulna, metacarpals and phalanges (RUS) and, independently, the carpals X-ray exposure on hand and wrist for TW3 tests is okay as per WHO guidelines.

TW3 Method was adopted by the Asian Cricket Council in 2005 for a two-year trial research, and implemented in 2007 under Dr Vece Paes’s supervision. BCCI, earlier, adopted the heightweight points system but it was found to vary significantly in individuals of the same age group, so it was discarded. Then, BCCI adopted the Greulich & Pyle (GP) method of bone maturity about seven years ago. The accuracy of this system is +/- 2-4 years.

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