In what is a big embarrassment for the nation, as many as 18 overaged Indian athletes were asked to return home from the Asian Youth Games in Nanjing on Sunday. Most of these athletes sent by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) were above the age limit of 17. According to reports, more athletes may be thrown out. However, the AFI says that it is a case of miscommunication and an inquiry panel can sort out the problem.
The 18 athletes, part of a 27-member squad, were already in Nanjing when they were told to pack and fly back without competing, leaving the contingent severely depleted. Indian athletes are participating in the event as "Independent Olympic Athletes" as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is under suspension.
The setback comes just two days after four Indian badminton players landed in Nanjing to find that they had not even been entered in their respective events. They too are likely to return home without taking any part in the Games.
"AFI thought that the athletics in the Youth Games would follow the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules according to which post 1996-born players were eligible. The players were picked accordingly. But the Games are being held as per the International Olympic Committee ( IOC) rules. I am sure the organizers must have sent the rules of the Games to every federation, but someone might not have bothered to read them," sources said.
What surprised most was that no one raised objections over their age when these names were sent to the IOA or the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Even the organizers did not reject their online application and gave them accreditation, just days before disqualifying them. The athletics events are started on Monday.
"The athletes had a selection trial in Thiruvanthapuram. After that AFI picked the athletes for the Games. It's squarely AFI's responsibility, if anything like this has happened," SAI director general Jiji Thomson said.
It has been also learnt that the four badminton players from India, who were not on the entry list, could be going home too. According to sources, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) tried to help the Indian players and even asked other contending countries to agree to a re-draw but it did not succeed. "What we have come to know is that eight of the participating countries agreed for a re-draw, but three others objected. So it could not happen," a source said. Badminton events began on Saturday.