China & the Gymnastic Cheating Scandal

by Suzie Raven

The Olympics are long over but certain issues seem to linger. The victories of a new sports season will soon overshadow the memory of record-breaking performances from U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican runner Usain Bolt. New scandals will overshadow the controversy regarding Chinese gold-medal winning gymnast He Kexin’s true age.

But wait — there hasn’t even been an official determination on He. At least, not yet.

Gymnasts must be sixteen years old to compete in the Olympics. Passports and state-issued identification cards claim that He was born in 1992, making her eligible. Other documents show her birthday as 1/1/94 and therefore two years too young.

Using Google and other internet search devices, Mike Walker, a computer security expert in Washington, D.C., actually turned up spreadsheet evidence from China's General Administration of Sport that shows He was born in 1994. The information Walker discovered also pointed to problems with the age listed for Yang Yilin, a bronze medalist in the all-around and parallel bars. Walker posted what he found on his blog, and soon the Associated Press was carrying the story of the scandal.

The reaction from the International Olympic Committee (IOC)? They asked the International Gymnastics Committee to investigate, even though, as the IOC stated “there is still no proof anyone cheated.”

If the material Walker found doesn't count as evidence, I don’t know what you would call it.

"We believe the matter will be put to rest and there's no question ... on the eligibility," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "The information we have received seems satisfactory in terms of the correct documentation — including birth certificates."

Yes, the gymnasts showed Chinese government-issued identification, but those documents come from a state that is willing to go to any length for gold medals. Chinese officials are not happy with the mere 51 gold medals its athletes won this year, the most of any country in the games.

"There is still a relatively large gap between China and the best in the world in the high-profile items like athletics, swimming and cycling, and also in the popular ball sports," Chinese sports chief Liu Peng said.

Liu went on to say that "these (problems) require earnest reflection, to build courage from shame and to make up lost ground."

This earnestness led the government to spend $200 billion on infrastructure improvements in Beijing, and “forcibly displace” more than three million residents in the construction projects related to the Olympics. China has no problem uprooting millions of its citizens in preparation for the games or telling a young girl she is too ugly to sing at the opening ceremony. Forging a couple of passports and birth certificates is no stretch of the imagination.

During the Olympics, China sought gold medals and respect from the rest of the world. With the investigation quickly turning into a memory, the gymnasts will probably keep their medals. I would like to see the IOC conduct an actual investigation, not just give it lip service. However, no matter the outcome, these questions will forever taint the young girls’ victories. All of the infrastructure improvements in the world can’t improve China’s image after they cheated their way to the medal stand.

(The photo of He Kexin performing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics is from China's Xinhua News Agency. Although Xinhua claims its material is copyrighted, as an arm of the Chinese government this photo and other material is in the public domain.)

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Ch3Ls said...

Wow, I heard about the scandal but it seems like the Gymnastics portion and even the Olympics are over...who is willing to put in the effort to researching their ages?

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