February 28, 2010 / 4:22 AM / 9 years ago

China hits back at gymnast age fraud sanction

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has condemned as “extremely regrettable” a decision by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to cancel Dong Fangxiao’s results at the 2000 Sydney Olympics over allegations that she falsified her age.

China's Dong Fangxiao performs her beam exercise during the women's team qualification in Gymnastics Artistic at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games September 17, 2000. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

The FIG said on Saturday they had concluded that Dong was younger than the minimum required age of 16 at the Games and have recommended the International Olympic Committee (IOC) withdraw China’s team bronze medal.

“We believe that to date there is insufficient evidence that Dong Fangxiao has age problems when participating in competition in 1999 and 2000, and therefore feel the decision of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is extremely regrettable,” read a statement on the Chinese Gymnastics Association (CGA) website (www.cga.net.cn).

“The CGA will take further steps to understand the situation, and reserves the right to give an additional explanation or to appeal.”

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

The latter date of birth would have made her 14 at the time of the games, putting the medals Dong and her five team mates won in jeopardy.

Dong has also had her results at the 1999 artistic gymnastics world championships canceled, along with those obtained at the FIG World Cup Series from 1999 to 2000 and at the 2000 artistic gymnastics world cup final.

INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

A separate probe into Dong’s Sydney team mate Yang Yun, who won a bronze in the uneven bars, found there was insufficient evidence to prove age fraud and she was let off with a warning.

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

Suspicions of age faking have dogged Chinese sport for a number of years.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the FIG was ordered by the IOC to investigate the age of China’s He Kexin, women’s team and uneven bars gold medalist.

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.

The CGA statement said the Chinese had been making constant efforts to improve management of athletes and to enforce the relevant rules of the FIG.

“In the future we will abide by this stance as we have done before.”

Editing by Patrick Johnston

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