To tackle the menace of age fraud, the AITA has made it mandatory for players to submit a report of TW3 age verification test for registration if they do not have a birth certificate issued within one year of birth even as the newly-crowned national champion Tejasvi Dabas has "voluntarily" withdrawn from the Under-12 category after allegations surfaced that she was overage.
Tejasvi, claimed to be 11-year old with height of 5 feet four inches, recently won the girls' Under-12 National Championship, held in Mumbai.
After receiving complaints against Tajasvi, AITA called her parents for a meeting and the outcome was that the player agreed to withdraw from the Under-12 category and is now allowed to compete only in Under-14 and Under-16 categories.
However, the All India Tennis Association will not take away the title won by her. Neither it considers it a case of age fraud.
"She is a huge girl, that's the main problem. I will not say it's an age fraud issue. I will say that the parents volunteered to withdraw due to complaints. It's a fact," AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee told, explaining the body's decision.
Asked if AITA tried to find the correct age of the girl, Chatterjee said, "We did not need to verify. The father of the girl said that her child looks big (growth is good) and that's why people are complaining."
"Had they contested, then we could have thought of age verification test. We asked them to put it (withdrawal from U-12) in writing and they did. Certificate-wise she can still play. Since there were complaints, we had to discuss it but it did not go to that level that we had to subject her to age verification test."
AITA also recently banned Muskan from competing in the Under-14 category as she was carrying two AITA registration cards with two different dates of birth.
Her card bearing registration number 430252, in which her date of birth was mentioned as March 6, 2005 was suspended. In her second card, her date of birth was mentioned as March 6, 2003
Former Indian Davis Cupper Vishal Uppal said age cheating was "indeed rampant" in Indian tennis circuit and needs to be tackled with strong deterrents.
"It's a serious issue we are facing. It's a step in right direction but we need strong deterrents to instill fear in the minds of cheaters. Players against whom there are strong doubts should not be selected in any junior Indian team," Uppal said.
When contacted, Tejasvi's father Jayant defended her daughter.
"She is definitely 11 but since she is winning consistently, there are complaints. If she was losing no one would have said anything. We live in a village and feed our daughter with pure goat milk and home grown vegetables, that's why her growth is good," Jayant, hailing from Kanjhawala, said.
Asked why they did not contest the age cheating charge, Jayant, who takes her daughter to Rohtak, 60km from his house, for coaching everyday, said, "We are looking at bigger picture, the women's tennis. It's okay if she does not compete in U-12. She will win in higher categories also because she is a good player."
In the Indian tennis circle, it is believed that more than the parents it's the coaches who are to be blamed for age cheating since if their players do well, they get a name for themselves.
Chatterjee said a circular has been sent to all state associations to tackle age fraud as per government guidelines.
"We are very seriously looking at it that the children play in right age group. The government wants the age fraud issue to be dealt with seriously. A lot of people say the child was born in village and that's why the registration was done four or five years after the birth.
"Today we are trying to create a mechanism where we are not looking at a child with suspicion. What we are doing is that if you have not registered within a year of birth and are applying for registration, then you have to get this TW3 test done and submit the report along with the registration application."
However, even the Tw3 test is not foolproof but is considered the best option so far.
Uppal said the step will take care of future cases but what about the current lot?
"Look, we need to safeguard the genuine players who are competing now in different age groups. We have to be careful that they do not suffer due to cheating. We should not invest funds in over-age players. Any suspect has to be investigated," he said.