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China gymnast age papers look 'ok' at first sight: Rogge

News18test sharma, |

Updated: August 24, 2008, 3:27 PM IST
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China gymnast age papers look 'ok' at first sight: Rogge
Allegations have been rife that China broke the rules by fielding gymnasts who will not turn 16 this year.

Beijing: Documents produced by China to prove that their gymnasts are 16 or older appear to be okay on first sight, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said on Sunday.

Allegations have been rife that China broke the rules by fielding gymnasts who will not turn 16 this year, as required under the sport's rules introduced in 1997 to protect the wellbeing of young athletes.

They have focussed on females He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, Li Shanshan, Deng Linlin and Yang Yilin, with the IOC last week ordering the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to investigate.

In response, the FIG held an extraordinary general meeting on Saturday to discuss the issue and China subsequently handed over documents to prove their case, including passports and identity cards.

Rogge said they were being analysed but looked to be in order.

"We heard allegations in the media about the ages and we took that very seriously and we asked the international federation to organise an inquiry themselves," he said on the final day of the Beijing Games.

"The eligibility of the athletes is the responsibility of the federation, not the IOC, but we considered it to be a very serious issue. The international federation requested all documents, like family books and entries of schools and things like that, and these have been received."

"At first sight everything seems okay. However, the FIG wants to study them thoroughly because they are in Chinese and then they will report to the IOC as soon as possible."

The IOC had specifically referred to the case of He after an American computer expert claimed he had uncovered Chinese state documents that proved she was born in 1994, making her 14.

China muscled aside the competition to dominate the gymnastics events here in a manner not seen since the Soviet era, snaring nine of the 14 gold on offer, second only to the USSR's 10 in Seoul in 1988.

He got two gold -- in the women's team event and in the uneven bars, where she edged US star Nastia Liukin.

USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said he had "always believed this issue needed to be addressed by the FIG and IOC".

Chinese officials, including Beijing Olympic organisers, have persistently denied any wrongdoing, with He herself insisting she was 16.

"I don't want to talk about this subject any more because those who know me, they know that I'm 16," she said during the competition.

"How can I do more? Explain more? No matter what people say, I'm still 16."

The Shichahai Sports School in Beijing, where He was nurtured, added that its documents showed she was 16.

Professor Arne Ljungqvist, the head of the IOC's medical commission, said during the Games he had come across issues of age-manipulation previously at world junior events.

But he stressed he had no reason to believe anything untoward had happened during the Beijing Olympics.

First Published: August 24, 2008, 3:27 PM IST
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