News reports publish illegal ages of chinese gymnasts

Naveen Yarlagadda ('11)/ Eastside staff

chinesegym.jpgThe camera zooms in on a pale young girl’s face drenched in make-up. The crowd roars and flashes go off everywhere as Yang Yilin of China’s women’s gymnastics team takes her position to compete. Her eyes move in every direction as if wishing that so many people would not be watching her. She throws a nervous smile at the crowd which instantly turns to a frown.  Despite her anxiety, she successfully completes her event to win the gold.  

Are these so called “women” old enough to compete at such a level? According to the Olympic rules, the gymnasts must be at least sixteen years old, (born in 1992 or earlier), to compete.  The International Federation of Gymnastics determined this minimum age because at an earlier age the athlete’s bones and muscles have not yet completely developed.  

The coach of the Chinese team claims that Yang is fifteen to sixteen years of age.  However, a person that old can not look so young. American gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi says “that they (look) like girls who (have) just rummaged through their mothers makeup.”  

Michael David Smith of AOL sports says that the “International Olympic Committee (IOC) doesn’t want to do anything to upset the host nation.” But how can rules be broken at the Olympics? The Olympics is an international event where every athlete is an ambasodor representing his/her country.  Therefore, he/she should compete with honesty and sportsmanship. 
 

   

  

  

   

There are many reports that the Chinese have indeed falsfied passports to change the competitors’ ages.  For instance, Xinhua, the Chinese government’s news source, reported nine months before the start of the Olympics that He Kexin of the women’s gymnastics team is really thirteen.  Moreover, the China Daily Newspaper reported He Kexin’s age as fourteen in an article celebrating her success, and later “corrected” her age to sixteen. 
 
 

  

  

   

  

              

Zhang Hongliang of the Chinese team says, “(The reports are) definitely a mistake. Never has any media outlet called me to check the athletes’ ages.” 
 
 

  

  

   

  

              

Even if the Chinese team is not underage, do these claims foreshadow future scandals in the Olympics? 
 

   

  

  

   

Although the committee doesn’t want to offend the host nation, the IOC needs to review the ages of all athletes and make sure that they are following the rules. Placing underage competitors in the Olympics is a form of cheating.  Thus, if a country is placing underage athletes in the Olympics, then the medals attained by these athletes should be withdrawn.