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The International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement on age determination in high-level young athletes
  1. Lars Engebretsen1,2,
  2. Kathrin Steffen2,
  3. Roald Bahr1,2,
  4. Carolyn Broderick3,4,
  5. Jiri Dvorak5,
  6. Per-Mats Janarv6,
  7. Amanda Johnson7,
  8. Michel Leglise8,
  9. Tallal Charles Mamisch9,
  10. Damien McKay3,10,
  11. Lyle Micheli11,
  12. Patrick Schamasch1,
  13. Gurcharan Dato Singh5,
  14. Diane E J Stafford12,
  15. Harald Steen13
  1. 1IOC Medical Commission, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Sports Medicine, Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3The Children's Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia
  4. 4The George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  5. 5Fédération Internationale de Football de Football Association (FIFA), Zurich, Switzerland
  6. 6Department of Pediatric Orthopedics, Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  7. 7Medical Department, Manchester United Football Club, Manchester, UK
  8. 8Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), Lausanne, Switzerland
  9. 9Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  10. 10Discipline of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  11. 11Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Division of Sports Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  12. 12Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  13. 13Department of Orthopedics, Rikshospitalet, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lars Engebretsen, Department of Sports Medicine, Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Ortopedisk avdeling, Ulleval sykehus, Oslo 0608, Norway; lars.engebretsen{at}medisin.uio.no

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Most youth sports around the world are classified on the basis of chronological age to guarantee equal chances within each of the different age groups. At the elite level, international sporting federations organise competitions in various age classes ranging from as low as under-13 up to under-21, depending on the sport. In August 2010, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is conducting the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore for 14–18-year-old athletes.

The standing of these youth competitions has increased to the stage at which there may be considerable rewards, individual fame or national prestige associated with winning, not only for the athlete but for the coach and his or her entourage. These competitions also represent important showgrounds for young athletes; in some sports, this is often where talented athletes are identified for a future professional career.

Unfortunately, in a number of sports it is suspected that the chronological age of the participating players is higher than the age stated on the official documents used to determine the eligibility of the individual. Players with a greater relative age are more likely to be identified as talented because of the likely physical advantages they have over their ‘younger’ peers.1

International sporting federations have uncovered several cases of document fraud, presumably aimed at allowing over-age athletes to gain a performance advantage by competing in a lower age class. At the other end of the spectrum, there are also documented cases of under-aged athletes competing in events in which there is a lower age limit (eg, the age of 14 years in the Olympic Games); particularly in sports in which late maturers may be at an advantage, such as in gymnastics.

It should be noted that the participation of over-age or under-age athletes is not always due to intentional cheating. To verify age, …

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