There’s been some widely publicized controversy regarding the competition age of the Chinese women’s gymnastics team recently. Rather than be too CNN, I decided to take a page from my friend Johnny and investigate on my own. I have an Internet connection, that means I should be able to verify the age of the gymnasts in question with primary state-issued documents and find out for myself if someone’s cheating, right? Right. Let’s go to work.
First, the rules.
1. Gymnasts must be 16 to compete. This means they must be born in 1992 or earlier.
2. Only publicly available, primary, linkable information can be used.
Who are we talking about?
Let’s take a look at He Kexin (何可欣). Her Chinese issued passport lists her birthday as 01/01/1992, 16 years old and old enough to compete. However, allegations cited on her Wikipedia page put her birthday as 01/01/1994, fourteen years old and not eligible for competition. Which is the truth? Let’s find out.
What is this post really about? I don’t really feel that it’s about the gymnastics age limit, or even really about whether fraud occurred. At this point, I believe that any reasonable observer already understands that age records have been forged. This story now is really about Internet censorship, the act of removing evidence while at the same time claiming that the evidence is wrong. For the first time I watched search records shift under my feet like sand, facts draining down a hole in the Internet. Will this stand?
UPDATE: Read Hacker uncovers ‘proof’ that Chinese gymnast is underage, from the Times:
Just nine months before the Olympics, the Chinese government’s Xinhua news agency gave Ms He’s name as 13. Officials have since dismissed that report saying Xinhua had never been given her age and had made a mistake.
Stryde, who was later named by the technology news site Information Week as Mike Walker, concludes: “Much of the coverage regarding Kexin’s age has only mentioned ‘allegations’ of fraud, and the IOC has ignored thematter completely. I believe that these primary documents, issued by the Chinese state … rise to a level of evidence higher than ‘allegation’.”