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RTI reveals murky deals behind athletes' fake age certificates

For the ‘princely’ sums of Rs 1,000, 5,000 and 25,000 you too can become an athlete with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), thanks to an alleged scam run by the doctors at Sion Hospital in collusion with SAI and others associations.

Certificates
One of the certificates bearing the stamp and signature of Dr Dere. An RTI query has revealed that he was on leave during when the certificate was issued

An RTI activist has alleged that the doctors, who are meant to conduct medical tests to determine the exact age of aspiring athletes so they can be slotted into appropriate age categories, have been signing age certificates without so much as looking at their photographs. In fact, the doctor entrusted with the task even managed to clear 11 candidates when he was on leave to perform the last rites of his late father. MiD DAY found out how he accomplished the feat.

Abdul Razzak Shaikh, an activist who helps admit patients to Sion hospital, exposed these irregularities through an RTI query, where he demanded information about the days on which Dr Rajesh Dere, professor and head of department of forensic medicine and Toxicology at the hospital, was on leave. It was learnt that he took leave from October 15 to 20 last year to perform the last rites of his late father. His father expired on October 15.

Shockingly, Dr Dere appears to have signed on certificates for 11 aspiring athletes in this duration. He ‘verified’ the photo and age for four and seven candidates on Oct 15 and Oct 17 respectively.

“I have been working for the patients admitted in Sion hospital and I know that the said doctor issues a receipt of Rs 500 only, but charges Rs 5,000 for Kabaddi athletes, Rs 25,000 for swimmers, Rs 25,000 for tennis and Rs 1,000 for others. My sources have informed me that he has trained his subordinate to forge his signature and sign certificates on his behalf. The subordinate puts his signature and verifies the photographs in his absence, and takes money as per the rate,” said Shaikh.

A doctor from Sion Hospital confirmed that Dr Dere was not present when the certificates were issued. Other sources in Sion hospital said that this was the ‘normal’ method of functioning for doctors. The management of SAI too are aware of the scam but keep mum so that candidates get cleared. In fact, a member of SAI also accompanies candidates to the hospital.

The rulebook says
The candidate’s bones and joints are to be examined through radiological examination to check ossification, which determines the approximate age of the athlete. SAI and other sporting associations need age verification to slot them into age groups. An average of 10 candidates are examined at Sion and KEM hospitals every month.

The other side
Dr Dere claimed, “It is true that I was on leave in that period as my father had expired. Bhandarkar called me and said it was an emergency. I came on October 16, signed on certificates and returned to my native place. I never did anything wrong in my life. I never hide anything. I am an open-minded and open-hearted person.” Dr Suleman Merchant, acting Dean of Sion hospital said, “I have heard about this, but cannot believe it as Dr Dere is a good person. Let me check the papers.” Virendra Bhandarkar, director of SAI did not respond to calls or messages from MiD DAY despite attempts for over a week. 

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