2008 Chinese gymnasts cleared, but two from 2000 Games still eyed

Updated: October 1, 2008, 6:34 PM ET
Associated Press

Though the case is closed on China's Olympic gold medalists, the age controversy in gymnastics is far from over.

[+] EnlargeKexin He
Franck Fife/AFP/Getty ImagesHe Kexin will keep her gold medals from the Beijing Games as gymnastics officials are satisfied that she and her Chinese teammates met competition age requirements.
Documents confirm all six members of China's gold medal team at the Beijing Games were old enough to compete, the International Gymnastics Federation said Wednesday. But it wants more answers from two members of China's 2000 squad -- Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun -- saying it "does not consider the explanations and evidence provided to date in regards to these athletes as satisfactory."

It also is moving forward with a licensing system that would serve as proof of age for a gymnast's entire career.

"It's not about the medal," said Dominique Dawes, part of the U.S. squad that finished fourth behind China at the 2000 Olympics. "The important issue is them righting a wrong and hopefully prohibiting future Olympians from being underage. It's really about making sure every athlete is doing things the right way."

Dong's official birthdate is listed as Jan. 20, 1983. But her accreditation information for the Beijing Olympics, where she worked as a national technical official, lists her birthdate as Jan. 23, 1986, said Andre Gueisbuhler, the FIG's secretary general.

"If that document is the correct one, that would suggest she was 14 years old at the Sydney Olympic Games," Gueisbuhler said.

Gymnasts must turn 16 during an Olympic year to be eligible to compete.

Calls to Yang and Dong's mobile phones rang unanswered Wednesday, a national holiday. So did phone calls to the Chinese gymnastics team's media officers.

Questions about the ages of China's Beijing squad had swirled for months, with media reports and online records suggesting some girls could be as young as 14. China insisted -- heatedly and repeatedly -- that all six gymnasts were old enough and said it had the documents to prove it. Any discrepancies, Chinese officials said, were the result of Web site inaccuracies or paperwork errors.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE