|JACQUES ROGGEPaperwork ''seems to be OK'' (file/Tim Wimborne/Reuters)|
Evidence supports gymnasts
BEIJING - The investigation goes on, so does the wait, yet the International Olympic Committee indicated yesterday that a reshuffling of Olympic gymnastics medals isn't likely.
Yes, this competition really was and probably will remain . . . one for the ages.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said paperwork appears to support what China has been saying all along: that all six members of its gold medal women's gymnastics team were old enough to compete at the Beijing Games. Gymnastics officials were still poring over the documents submitted by the Chinese in response to a request for more information on the birthdates of He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan, Deng Linlin, and Li Shanshan.
"The international federation has required the delivery of birth certificates and all the documents like family books, entries in schools, and things like that," Rogge said. "They have received the documents, and at first sight it seems to be OK."
If evidence of cheating is found, four of China's six medals could be affected. In addition to the team gold, He won gold on uneven bars and Yang got bronze medals on bars and the all-around.
Questions about the Chinese gymnasts' ages have been swirling for months, with media reports and online records suggesting that He, Yang, and Jiang might be as young as 14. Gymnasts must turn 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible. The International Gymnastics Federation and IOC thought they had put the matter to rest before the Games, when the IOC said it had checked the girls' passports and deemed them valid.
But the suspicions persisted. Even though the competition had long since ended and the Olympics were almost done, the IOC asked the FIG last week to check into the issue one more time.
Chinese gymnastics officials handed over passports, ID cards, and family residence permits to the FIG, and China's deputy sports minister said all the information appears to be in order. The FIG made no comment yesterday.
"The ages of the members of our gymnastics delegation entirely conform to the requirements for participation in the Beijing Olympic Games," said Cui Dalin, the vice minister of the General Administration of Sport of China.
Cui also said discrepancies about He's age were the result of a paperwork error. Chinese officials decided to move He from her local team to the national team at last year's China's Cities Games, but Cui said a "misunderstanding appeared" about her age during the registration process. The government's news agency, Xinhua, identified He as one of "10 big new stars" after the Cities Games and gave her age as 13.
"So it was the appearance of a mistake in the process of transferring teams that the misunderstanding appeared," Cui said. "However, I can right here accurately say that the ages of the members of our gymnastics delegation entirely conform to the requirements for participation in the Beijing Olympic Games."