China Leaves Underage Gymnast in the Cold

Dong Fangxiao, the Olympic gymnast who has been found to have been underage when she competed in Sydney in 2000, has gotten little support from Chinese authorities, AP reports:

Despite China’s official denials, accumulating evidence that Dong was just 14 when she competed on the team that won Olympic bronze now includes her personal resume, which says she was born Jan. 23, 1986.

…At an FIG hearing in December, Dong said she was born in 1983 but produced a passport that gave her birthdate in 1986, federation officials say.

Yet while Dong has seemingly sought to keep up appearances, she is now being left out in the cold in China, where the top gymnastics administrator is trying to wriggle out of FIG and IOC sanctions by shifting blame onto Dong.

The state-run newspaper China Youth Daily quoted Luo Chaoyi as saying that Dong was eligible in Sydney but then shaved three years off her age after retirement in 2001, and that “this must have been an act by her and her family.”

Such an explanation is barely credible – unless, of course, Dong is a master forger of official documents, which is even less believable. In China, as elsewhere, passports are government-issued. Coaches – and not just in China – have also long falsified ages for girls whose small and supple bodies give them a competitive advantage over larger and older young women. The reverse scenario – that a retired gymnast would pass herself off as a kid – makes no sense.

March 12, 2010 9:33 PM
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