February 27, 2010 / 1:28 AM / 9 years ago

Olympics-China gymnast guilty of age fraud, medals could be lost

BEIJING, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The six Chinese women gymnasts who won a team bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics are likely to be forced to return their medals after one of them was found to have falsified her age.

An International Gymastics Federation (FIG) probe has found Dong Fangxiao was younger than the minimum age requirement of 16 during the 2000 Games after she registered different ages at Sydney and the Beijing Games eight years later.

“Consequently, the results obtained by Dong Fangxiao at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games have been cancelled,” the FIG said in a statement on Saturday.

“The FIG Executive Committee decision was forwarded to the IOC Executive Board with the recommendation to withdraw the bronze medal obtained by the Chinese team including the results of Dong Fangxiao in Sydney.”

The statement said Dong had registered a Jan. 20, 1983, birth date at Sydney, but when accredited to act as “secretary” at vault at the 2008 Beijing Games, had declared her birth date as Jan. 23, 1986.

“This birth date implies that she would have been 14 years old during the Sydney Olympic Games,” it said.

Dong will also have her results at the 1999 artistic gymnastics world championships in Tianjin cancelled, along with those obtained at the FIG World Cup Series from 1999 to 2000 and at the 2000 artistic gymnastics world cup final in Glasgow, the statement said.

INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

In a separate probe into Dong’s Sydney team mate Yang Yun, who won a bronze in the uneven bars, there was insufficient evidence to prove age fraud.

The case against Yang, the wife of China’s three-time Olympic champion Yang Wei, had been triggered when she admitted on Chinese state television before the Beijing Games that she had been 14 when she competed at Sydney.

“Yang Yun is awarded with a warning for the declaration she made during the interview with CCTV5,” the statement said.

Suspicions of age faking have dogged sports for a number of years in China, where government funding invariably follows success in city and provincial-level tournaments.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the FIG was ordered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to investigate the age of China’s He Kexin, women’s team and uneven bars gold medallist.

He, along with team mates Jiang Yuyuan, Yang Yilin, Li Shanshan and Deng Linlin, were subsequently declared eligible by the FIG two months after they won China’s first ever Olympic team gold in women’s gymnastics.

Last year, a sports ministry probe using X-ray bone analysis found a fifth of the 15,000 young athletes in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong had misrepresented their age, state media reported.

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com

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