Posts Tagged ‘FIG’
According to this AP article, the FIG has decided to expand its investigation of Chinese gymnasts’ age to the 2000 team, which means big trouble for the Chinese.
Recall that Yang Yun admitted last year that she was 14 at the Sydney Olympics.
It’s slow reaction time, but they are saying that information from before the Games has led them to this decision:
“If we had a look at all the articles that came before, during and after the games, there were always rumors about the ages of China’s athletes in Sydney,” Andre Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the International Gymnastics Federation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
“We did not have another choice,” he said. “If we want to remain credible, then we have to look into things.”
Here is the story where Yang Yun admits to being 14.
ETA: There are really three parts of this story to comment on, and I think it’s important to keep them separate.
The first is whether the FIG should be further investigating this matter. Although a number of pieces of evidence point to falsification, China has supplied the FIG with proof of age as required by the organization’s bylaws. If China were not a notoriously secretive autocracy, it is less likely that we would be having this conversation, which begs the question of whether it is within the tradition of international sport and the Olympic Games to essentially suggest that the word of a national government is not sufficient.
Second, if it is decided that the Chinese ages were in fact falsified, we must consider what actions — and sanctions, if any — are appropriate.
Finally, this issue returns us to the question of whether there should be an age limit for senior elite international competition — and therefore participation in the Olympic games. As can be seen from the reactions of the likes of Bela Karolyi on this one, believing that the Chinese should be sanctioned for falsification does not necessarily imply agreement with the policy.
So, those are the three things to consider. What do you think? I’ll give my perspective in coming posts.
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.