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Chinese Gymnasts – How Young Were They? August 21, 2008

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Chinese Gymnasts won the “women’s” team all around Gold Medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. They were led by He Kexin, who also took a Gold Medal in the individual uneven bars. Even as they were competing, there was rampant speculation that He and several of her teammates were “under aged”. The official age minimum set by the International Olympic Committee at the time of the Beijing Olympics was 16.

On August 21, 2008, the New York Times and several other news sources reported that the I.O.C. was launching an official investigation to determine if the Chinese Gymnasts were in fact under aged.

BEIJING — The International Olympic Committee asked the world governing body for gymnastics to investigate whether members of the Chinese women’s team were too young to compete in the Olympics.

The I.O.C. instructed the international gymnastics federation, known as the F.I.G., to take up the issue with the Chinese gymnastics federation and the Chinese Olympic Committee and report back to the I.O.C. later Friday.

The F.I.G. has asked the Chinese for official documents, including birth certificates, of its entire women’s gymnastics team, according to I.O.C. officials. At the start of the Beijing Games, I.O.C. officials said that they had reviewed documentation provided by the Chinese team, and that they were satisfied that the gymnasts met age requirements.
Read more: NY Times

Bela Karolyi, the former coach of Olympic champions Mary Lou Retton and Nadia Comaneci, has said repeatedly he believes the Chinese are cheating. Reached at his Texas ranch Friday, he said he hopes the FIG investigates with objectivity.
“My personal opinion is they want to close it without spectacular results,” Karolyi said. “I’m afraid about that. They’re going to end the issue by saying they will investigate. Nothing much will result. But who knows? I can hope.”
Read more: USA Today

Karoli added:
These people think we are stupid…We are in the business of gymnastics. We know what a kid of 14 or 15 or 16 looks like. What kind of slap in the face is this? They are 12, 14 years old and they get lined up and the government backs them and the federation runs away. There is an age limit and it can’t be controlled.

On October 1, 2008, the I.O.C. cleared the Chinese Gymnasts

Ben Johnson Gold Medal Stripped

Five Chinese gymnasts suspected of being underage at the Beijing Olympics have been cleared by the International Gymnastic Federation (FIG).
He Kexin – one of the five – won the women’s uneven bars, pushing Britain’s Beth Tweddle into fourth place.
Gymnasts must turn 16 during the Olympic year to compete.
In a statement, FIG said it regarded the case as “concluded” but insisted it is still looking at the ages of Chinese gymnasts at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
Read more: BBC

Olympic Controversy, Read More

However, in 2010 a member of the the 2000 Chinese Gymnastics team was determined to be under aged and was stripped of her Bronze Medal.

Many people remember the gold-medal winning Chinese gymnastic team from 2008. Not all of the competitors looked like they were 16, which is the minimum age to participate in the Olympics. In 2000, there was at least one underage gymnast: Dong Fangxiao. Her true age wasn’t discovered until 2008, when she applied to be an official in the Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has just ruled that Dong Fangxiao was underage, and has taken away the Chinese bronze medal. This ruling changes the official Olympic record; at the same time, it also shows that the Chinese gymnasts from 2008 could eventually lose their medals, if they are proven to be underage at a later date. There is a lot of data supporting that they were underage as well; if they are proven underage, history could repeat itself.
Read more: Yahoo Voices

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