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Persistent questions about Chinese, but no proof

Persistent questions about Chinese, but no proof

Despite persistent questions about the ages of several members of the Chinese women's gymnastics team that won the gold medal, the International Olympic Committee said Friday there is still no proof anyone cheated and believes the controversy will be "put to rest."
China has again given the governing body of gymnastics documents that show its athletes are eligible, and coach Lu Shanzhen said the girls' families are "indignant" that the issue won't go away.
"It's not just me. The parents of our athletes are all very indignant," Lu said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They have faced groundless suspicion. Why aren't they believed? Why are their children suspected? Their parents are very angry."
The IOC asked the International Gymnastics Federation to investigate "what have been a number of questions and apparent discrepancies," spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. The FIG has said repeatedly that a passport is the "accepted proof of a gymnast's eligibility," and that China's gymnasts have presented ones that show they are age eligible. The IOC also checked the girls' passports and deemed them valid before the games began.
Lu said the Chinese gave the FIG documents Thursday that included the current and former passport, ID card and family residence permit for double gold medalist He Kexin. Lu said the documents all say she was born in 1992, which makes her eligible to compete. Gymnasts must turn 16 at some point during the Olympic year to be eligible.
"We believe the matter will be put to rest and there's no question ... on the eligibility," Davies said. "The information we have received seems satisfactory in terms of the correct documentation _ including birth certificates."
If the federation had found evidence that the gymnasts were underage, it could have affected four of China's medals. In addition to the team gold and He's gold on bars, Yang Yilin won bronze medals in the all-around and uneven bars. Media reports and online documents have suggested that He, Yang and a third team member, Jiang Yuyuan, might be as young as 14.
"Surely it's not possible that these documents are still not sufficient proof of her birthdate?" Lu asked. "The passports were issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The identity card was issued by China's Ministry of Public Security. If these valid documents are not enough to clarify this problem, then what will you believe?"
Andre Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the FIG, said the federation would release a statement later Friday.
Earlier this month, the AP found registration lists previously posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Sport of China that showed both He and Yang were too young to compete. He was born Jan. 1, 1994, according to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 registration lists.
Yang was born Aug. 26, 1993, according to the 2004, 2005 and 2006 registration lists. In the 2007 registration list, however, her birthday has changed to Aug. 26, 1992.
"If you trust every Web site but not a government ... There are so many Web sites, so much hearsay," Lu said. "These are not official. It is possible that all news on the Internet is accurate?"
Although the IOC didn't detail what prompted it to ask the FIG to look into the matter again, after competition had already ended, the U.S. Olympic Committee said it sent a letter to both organizations Friday asking them to resolve the matter.
"We certainly believe that it's important for the IOC and the international federation to review the issue and hopefully lay it to rest because the questions surrounding the age of some of the athletes have been out there for quite a while and it's unfair to them and unfair to the other athletes to continue to linger," USOC chief executive Jim Scherr said.
"So we have sent a letter to the IOC and to the international federation asking them to review the matter and see if they can't resolve it for the good of the competition, the integrity of the competition and the good of all the athletes."
The Chinese women won six medals, including the team gold and He's gold on uneven bars. Media reports include a Nov. 3, 2007 story by the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, that suggest He is only 14.
Age falsification has been a problem in gymnastics since the 1980s after the minimum age was raised from 14 to 15 to protect young athletes from serious injuries. The minimum age was raised to its current 16 in 1997. Younger gymnasts are considered to have an advantage because they are more flexible, and are likely to have an easier time doing the tough skills the sport requires. They also aren't as likely to have a history of injuries or fear of failure.
North Korea was barred from the 1993 world championships after FIG officials discovered Kim Gwang Suk, the gold medalist on uneven bars in 1991, was listed as 15 for three years in a row. Romania admitted in 2002 that several gymnasts' ages had been falsified, including Olympic medalists Gina Gogean and Alexandra Marinescu.
Even China's own Yang Yun, a double bronze medalist in Sydney, said during an interview aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 in 2000.
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Armour is an AP National Writer; Leicester is an AP Olympics Columnist. AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson also contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-06 02:06 GMT+08:00