Sports minister orders enquiry, AFI president clarifies

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Sports minister Jitendra Singh ordered an inquiry even as Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla Monday clarified that confusion in the eligibility rules led to the selection of overage athletes for the ongoing second Asian Youth Games in Nanjing.

"The minister has asked Director General, Sports Authority of India (SAI) to conduct an inquiry into both the incidents and fix the responsibility on the individuals responsible for the lapses. The minister has also directed DG, SAI to put in place a mechanism so that such incidents do not occur in future," a statement from the ministry read.

Sumariwalla told IANS that AFI went by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules whereas the organisers applied the rules set by Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

"In this case we had to go by IAAF rules according to which athletes born post-1996 were eligible. Moreover, the organisers issued visas to the participants knowing fully well the age mentioned in their passports. But only after reaching there we came to know of the criteria applied by the organisers -- those born between 1997 to 1999 (i.e. 14 to 16 years of age in 2013)," Sumariwalla told IANS.

Sumariwalla said AFI is not affiliated to the OCA and had to follow IAAF rules while sending player for the Youth Games.

The AFI president assured that such things won't happen in future.

"It is not the time to start a blame game. We have to make sure that such things don't happen in future again. I can understand what the young athletes had to undergo after they were came to know that they were not eligible for the Games," the former athlete said.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI), however, blamed the AFI for the mess.

SAI director general Jiji Thomson told IANS that the whole selection process was flawed.

"The whole selection process was flawed. They should have been aware of the tournament rules. If we try to intervene too much in the selection process then we will be seen as as the big brother infringing on their autonomy," Thomson told IANS.

Thomson was surprised that overage players were selected despite a proper trial by the AFI.

"I am surprised that this took place despite proper selection trials in Thiruvanthapuram by the AFI," Thomson added.

The 18 athletes were part of the 27-member Indian athletics squad. They were told to pack and fly back without competing, leaving the squad severely depleted in important disciplines.

This comes two days after four Indian badminton players found that their names were not sent by the Badminton Federation of India (BFI) for their respective events.

The Indian athletes are participating in the event as "Independent Olympic Athletes" as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is under suspension.

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