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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, …