Top 10 Athletes Involved in Age Fraud Scandals

Tags: #Football ,   #scandal ,   #baseball

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-05-10 18:00:09

One could assume that it would be simple to establish a participant's age in any significant competition. After all, before the athlete may compete, they must present proof to a commission. Thus, a background check should reveal whether or not an athlete is telling the truth. However, that's not always the case. Unfortunately, several athletes have attempted to misrepresent their ages in various sports. Depending on the circumstance, someone may lie about his age for various reasons. Here are ten famous examples.

10. Rafael Furcal

The age fraud didn't affect Furcal's career significantly
Sport: Baseball
Claimed to be: 21
Actually was: 23 
Level of deceit: Minimal

September 11, 2001, thoroughly changed the United States and the rest of the world equally. Thus, the genuine ages of several Dominican baseball players were revealed due to what was described as "increased attention to immigration" in February 2002.

One such athlete was Rafael Furcal, a promising young shortstop who, although saying he was 21, was actually 23 years old. Because Furcal still had a lot left in the tank at that point, those additional two years weren't all that significant.

9. Alf Ramsey

Famous English manager was a pioneer in age fraud
Sport: Football
Claimed to be: 20
Actually was: 22 
Level of deceit: Minimal

This is a reminder from a century ago. After the First World War, Alf Ramsey was eager to begin his professional career. Ramsey's issue was that he was concerned that teams would be put off by his age and prevent him from signing a professional deal. 

Thus, Ramsey falsified his age by saying he was only 20. It turns out that Ramsey was a game-changer for future athletes. As he was immortalized as a manager, everyone forgave his little mishap. Furthermore, many don't even know about the whole incident.

8. Wandy Rodriguez

Hidden gem hid his actual age too
Sport: Baseball
Claimed to be: 17
Actually was: 19 
Level of deceit: Moderate

The Houston Astros thought they had found a hidden gem in a teenage pitcher named Eny Cabreja in the late 1990s. Rodriguez, portraying Cabreja, claimed to be 17 when a scout from Houston discovered him. 

Rodriguez successfully lied about his age for a further four years. As was revealed later, he had been approached when he was 19 and decided to lie partly because he desired a better life. With that, Wandy enjoyed a long and successful career before retiring in 2016 following some years in the lower leagues.

7. Shabazz Muhammad

Just a harmless little lying about age
Sport: Basketball
Claimed to be: 20
Actually was: 21 
Level of deceit: Minor

Basketball prospect Shabazz Muhammad was a student at UCLA when reports broke of an intriguing fact about him. As it turned out, Muhammad was born in 1992 and not 1993. This made him a year older than UCLA and what the general public thought he was as of early March 2013.

After the affair, reports claimed that this was not an error. Instead, Muhammad and his family had done it on purpose. Muhammad's stock in the NBA Draft dropped after the incident, but he was still the first-round choice. Since then, everyone has forgotten about this.

6. Dong Fangxiao

One of many possible cases of Chinese age fraud
Sport: Gymnastics
Claimed to be: 16
Actually was: 14 
Level of deceit: Moderate

Dong Fangxiao competed for China's women's gymnastics team, which took home medals at the 1999 World Championships and the Summer Olympics in 2000. However, she lost her medals in 2010 after discovering that Dong's paperwork was fake. The truth is that she was just 14 at the 2000 Summer Olympics, making her too young to compete. 

The gymnastics community did not find this particularly startling news, given China had long been suspected of fabricating athletes' ages. Given that Dong was not the first to be "caught," some people might think it is only a matter of time before another controversy of a similar nature becomes public.

5. Kim Gwang Suk

The youngest 15-year-old of all time
Sport: Gymnastics
Claimed to be: 15
Actually was: unknown
Level of deceit: Severe

People were not only surprised by North Korea's fabrication of the gymnast Kim Gwang Suk's age. Almost everyone who saw Kim's performance knew she was too young to compete in events like the Olympics. When North Korea categorized Kim as being 15 for three years in a row, they did themselves no favors.

The truth is that those without direct access to her records are unlikely ever to learn Kim's age when she was a well-known athlete. But all signs point to the fact that she was the youngest "15-year-old" anyone had ever seen.

4. Gourav Mukhi

This level of audacity is unseen
Sport: Football
Claimed to be: 16
Actually was: 21 
Level of deceit: Severe

Indian football player Gourav Mukhi brutally lied about his age. When he scored for his side Jamshedpur FC at 16, he set a record as the ISL's youngest-ever goal scorer.

Everyone believed Mukhi was mistaken because he was obviously much older. Therefore, Mukhi was exposed as an age fraud, and the All India Football Federation placed him on a six-month suspension. Later on, they learned that he was 21 and not 16.

3. Tom Shaw

Tom Shaw decided not to age over 26
Sport: Golf
Claimed to be: 26
Actually was: 30 
Level of deceit: Major

A golfer, Tom Shaw, admitted to lying about his age and remarked, "I had a nice year at 26, and I thought I'd just remain there for a bit." As a good and honest justification for such an offense, it is about all you will find. Shaw misrepresented his age by four years for a long time, but his deception was exposed when Jack Nicklaus called him out.

Years of players making fun of Shaw's age gave way to a more complex situation: Shaw had to disclose his age when he sought to play on the Senior PGA Tour. He was then required to provide proof that he was 50 years old.

2. Tobie Mimboe

A Peter Pan of age frauds
Sport: Football
Claimed to be: 23
Actually was: 32 
Level of deceit: Major

Cameroonian footballer Tobie Bayard Mimboe retired at over 40 after a successful career. He even participated in the 1996 and 1998 editions of the African Cup of Nations. Mimboe is best known for his various birth certificate sagas, though. Initially, he used a birth document indicating he was born in 1964, making him 31 years old, during the 1996 African Cup of Nations.

When he eventually joined Gençlerbirlii in 1997, his birth date—June 30, 1974—was listed on his birth certificates, making him 23 years old. However, there's more. He gave his birthdate as June 30, 1970, in the following AFCON in 1998, becoming 28 years old. Thus, books refer to him as the "Peter Pan of birth certificates."

1. Joseph Minala

Absolute champion in age fraud?
Sport: Football
Claimed to be: 17
Looked like he was: 42 
Level of deceit: Egregious

For those unfamiliar, Joseph Minala gained notoriety in 2014 while trying to make it onto Lazio's first squad as a 17-year-old. But the only issue he encountered was age-related inquiries. He was alleged to be 42 years old.

The unbelievable allegations were published on an African football website, which made the entire football world know of the young player. Minala was the subject of an inquiry by the Italian Football Association (FIGC), but the matter was dismissed later that year. His football development was impeded by the age-related controversies that never appeared to go away, although he remained on Lazio's roster, playing as the borrowed player. Officially, he never cheated on his age, but it's easy not to trust him.

Whether the goal is to make an athlete young enough to be viewed as an elite prospect, old enough to sign a contract, or to meet a minimum or maximum age requirement for participating in an event, age fabrication is standard in sports. Although a comprehensive list would take longer to write than "The Winds of Winter," we only included some extreme examples.

What's your most daring age fraud in sports? Which age frauds would you add to the list?

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