In the Laws of the Game players who dive to try to deceive the referee are officially punished for ‘simulation’ but this is just a polite way of saying they are cheating.

But cheating come in other forms on the field. The player who pretends he has been assaulted to get an opponent sent off or the player who claims for a throw in when he knows he played the ball out of play himself are all guilty of cheating.

In some sports, notably cycling, athletics and weightlifting, cheating takes the form of drug taking to enhance performance. Thankfully drug taking in football is relatively uncommon since performance enhancing drugs are unlikely to improve ball control although some players, especially young players, have been caught taking recreational drugs. This is more a problem of society than sport.

Medical advances in drug detection in sport work hard to keep pace with the drug takers.

Football, however, needs medical support to detect another form of cheating – playing over-age players in youth tournaments.

The use of MRI scans to determine age is specific to football and may not be applicable to other sports.

A joint pilot study by FIFA and AFC using MRI scanning to determine the age of young players, concluded that an MRI scan showing complete fusion of radial bone growth in the wrist was more than 99 percent accurate in determining that a player was over 17 years of age.

Based on agreed recommendations from a panel of 13 international experts from Asia and Europe, AFC incorporated into the AFC U16 Tournament Regulations the AFC MRI Protocol for Age Determination.

AFC surprised member associations with the introduction of MRI scanning for age determination in 2007. AFC was flooded with requests to either allow them to change players after having submitted the player’s list to AFC or alternatively replace them on medical grounds.

AFC stood firm and some players did not travel with the team to the final competition. Some players from teams, after having travelled to the venues of competitions were not listed to play for fear of undergoing MRI screening.

In 2007, ten out of the 437 MRI wrist scans conducted showed the players were over-age. AFC applied sanctions and in 2008 and 2009 only one player each year was deemed to be over-age.

AFC was duly rewarded with its efforts when no overage players were fielded at the AFC U16 Finals in Tashkent, 2010.

AFC Medical Committee Chairman, Dato’ Dr Gurcharan Singh, said that member associations and confederations have a responsibility to initiate the fight against age cheating in their age group tournaments.

The significance of the joint collaboration between AFC and FIFA’s F-MARC programme which started in 2003 has now been realised, as FIFA will introduce MRI scanning to determine age at the FIFA U17 tournament in 2013.

Hopefully at least one form of cheating is now under control.

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