An Update on the Chinese Age Scandal
Posted September 9, 2008on:
Honestly, I think the evidence is pretty convincing on this one. (Honestly, the best evidence comes from what a hacker dug up in Google Cache, meaning that people who have randomly taken interest in this case are doing a better job than FIG. He found He Kexin’s birth year as 1994 in official documents that have been systematically removed from the Internet.) Up to half of the Chinese team was likely underage. But what should be done? Firstly, FIG should — if nothing but for its own reputation — start a demanding formal investigation of this issue. Cheating cannot be treated lightly, especially not at an event with the supposed spirit of the Olympic Games. Second, if it comes to light that anyone on the team was underage, the entire team should be stripped of any relevant individual or team medals. This second part is not exactly a groundbreaking opinion. The first appears to be though, since FIG seems to be dealing with this situation far too lightly. Of course, there are geopolitical issues to consider — many countries don’t trust Chinese official records, and why would you? It would be less of a problem in an open democracy.
I think the most disgusting thing in all of this is the Chinese reaction. They feel attacked, of course. And they did win. But while the U.S. gymnasts, when questioned, have been asked what they think (by the likes of Letterman and Leno), they’ve all said that they hope it’s not true, that it will be investigated, but that it is not their place to comment as if they had some sort of proof. Shawn Johnson had the best answer, saying that she was friends with those girls, and she hopes it is not the case, and that if it is, it is probably not their faults (which is likely true). (Nastia Liukin was a little jingoistic in saying that Americans would never do something like that, but that may be a topic for another time.)
By contrast, Lu Shanzhen said:
It’s because the Chinese women’s team is such a strong competitor for the U.S. team. That’s why there are such suspicions.
It’s unsportsmanlike and, frankly, false. The only person affiliated with the U.S. team who has made comments to that effect is Bela Karolyi, and he doesn’t have an official role. Marta Karolyi and the rest of USA Gymnastics were not involved in the initial complaints. Since then, their role has mainly been limited to saying that they hope this is dealt with swiftly and professionally. I hope all sides live up to that wish.
The big question is what happens if the medals get redistributed. The United States would get gold, and it would be recorded as such, but who wants to win gold in that way? Remember that Simona Amanar gave her gold medal back to Andreea Raducan after the debacle at the 2000 Olympics. It was rightfully Raducan’s firstly (more on that in another post?). But I’m sure it was partly that Amanar didn’t want something that she didn’t feel she had earned. I doubt the 2008 U.S. Olympic team would either.