China expresses regret over gymnastics punishment
China has expressed regret at a decision by international gymnastics officials to recommend the withdrawal of an Olympic medal won by the country at the 2000 games because a member of its squad was underage at the time.
Gymnast Dong Fangxiao was 14 during the Sydney Games, according to an investigation by the FIG, the international gymnastics federation. Gymnasts must be 16 during the Olympic year to compete.
The Chinese Gymnastics Association said it reserved the right to further explain and to appeal the decision, adding it has been cooperating fully with the FIG in its investigation.
FIG on Saturday "canceled" all of Dong's results from the 2000 Sydney Games and recommended that the International Olympic Committee strip the Chinese of their bronze medal.
A second gymnast on the 2000 squad, uneven bars bronze medalist Yang Yun, also was suspected of being underage, but there was insufficient evidence her age had been falsified. FIG said it was giving her a warning.
"We believe that to date, there is no sufficient evidence to prove that there were problems with Dong Fangxiao's age in 1999 and 2000, therefore we feel great regret toward the FIG's punishment decision," the Chinese association said in a statement late Saturday.
The Chinese Gymnastics Association has been "constantly strengthening and perfecting the administration of gymnasts ... and will strictly check every detail on the gymnasts' part," the statement said.
Questions about Dong and Yang's eligibility arose during the FIG investigation into the eligibility of the Chinese team that won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. Media reports and Internet records suggested some of the girls on that team could have been as young as 14.
The FIG cleared the Beijing Games gymnasts in October 2008 after Chinese officials provided original passports, ID cards and family registers showing all of the gymnasts were old enough to compete. But the FIG said it wasn't satisfied with "the explanations and evidence provided to date" for Dong and Yang.
Dong's results from the 1999 world championships, where China won a bronze medal and she was sixth in the all-around, also will be wiped out, the FIG said.
Age falsification has been a problem in gymnastics since the 1980s, after the minimum age was raised from 14 to 15 in an effort to protect young athletes, whose bodies are still developing, from serious injuries. The minimum age was raised to its current 16 in 1997.
Romania admitted some of its gymnasts' ages had been falsified, including Olympic medalists Gina Gogean and Alexandra Marinescu. Gymnasts from the Soviet Union said their birth dates were changed to allow them to compete. And North Korea was banned from the 1993 world championships after FIG discovered Kim Gwang Suk, the 1991 gold medalist on uneven bars, was listed as 15 for three years in a row.
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