IOC wants re-examine of Chinese gymnast's age issue

AFP
Aug 22, 2008 at 12:55pm IST

Beijing: The IOC on Friday said it had asked the International Gymnastics Federation to re-examine claims that Chinese gold medal winner was not old enough to compete in the Olympics.

Allegations have been rife that China broke the rules by fielding three gymnasts who will not turn 16 this year, with the focus on He.

The New York Times reported last month that online records showed two members of the women's team, He and Jiang Yuyuan, may be only 14.

A BIG DEBATE: It has been alleged that Chinese gold medal winner was not old enough to compete in the Olympics.

The age of a third athlete, Yang Yilin, then came into question when the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) website posted a profile indicating she too was 14.

And on Thursday, an American computer expert claimed he had uncovered Chinese state documents that proved He was born in 1994.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies insisted the investigation was informal in a bid "put the matter to rest".

"You shouldn't regard this as some kind of formal investigation, but, yes we have asked the gymastics federation to look into what have been a number of questions and apparent discrepancies on this subject," she said.

"They are working with the national federation, who have been extremely helpful, so we can have a full clarification on this topic."

The probe was welcomed by China's chief rival, the United States.

"USA Gymnastics has always believed this issue needed to be addressed by the FIG and IOC," said USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny.

"An investigation would help bring closure to the issue and remove any cloud of speculation from this competition."

China muscled aside the competition to dominate the gymnastics events here in a manner not seen since the Soviet era, snaring nine of the 14 gold on offer, second only to the USSR's 10 in Seoul in 1988.

BOCOG executive vice president Wang Wei reiterated that the gymnasts would not have competed if they were under-age.

"The information I have received previously came from the international federation and the China Olympic Committee which produced the necessary information as evidence," he said on their ages.

"These documents have been clarified and been cleared up. The eligibility of the athletes has been authorised by the international federation and if they hadn't been cleared they would not have participated in the Games."

He, who edged US star Nastia Liukin to gold in the uneven bars, insists she is 16.

"I don't want to talk about this subject any more because those who know me, they know that I'm 16," she said during the competition.

"How can I do more? Explain more? No matter what people say, I'm still 16."

China runs huge state-funded athletics academies and has faced repeated criticism for the allegedly harsh regime it uses to prepare young gymnasts.

The Shichahai Sports School in Beijing, where He has been nurtured, said its documents showed she was 16.

"We rigorously check all documents related to our students," deputy principal Shi Fenghua said.

"He Kexin is 16, according to all her registration documents. There is no doubt at all."

Due to concerns about the wellbeing of young gymnasts whose bodies are under huge stress when they reach elite level, officials introduced a rule in 1997 saying they had to turn 16 during an Olympic year to compete at the Games.

Previous Comments

Latest