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Chinese athletics officials: No more age cheats

By Tang Yue (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-29 09:53
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Singapore Youth Games athletes undergo stringent tests

Beijing - Chinese athletics officials are adamant there will be no repeat of the under-age scandal which ultimately saw a Chinese gymnast lose a bronze medal she won at the Sydney Olympics at next month's Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

Six months after Chinese gymnast Dong Fangxiao was finally stripped of the women's team bronze medal she won at the 2000 Games due to a falsely documented age, Chinese officials are paying extremely close attention to the issue as the 70-athlete squad prepares for the first Youth Olympics, which will be held from Aug 14-26.

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Cai Zhenhua, the head of China's delegation to Singapore and the vice-president of State General Administration of Sport, said the country has no tolerance of age-faking and has verified the athletes' ages through various means.

"We've scrutinized every athlete's age in the delegation for the Youth Olympic Games to make sure there is no one going to Singapore with a fake age," Cai said on Wednesday of the event, which will showcase athletes between the ages of 14 and 18.

"We have to make our Chinese delegation very clean and transparent. This is for the benefit of the athletes and the fair play spirit of the Olympics."

According to Cai, the authorities have checked six credentials from each athlete to confirm their birth dates; including birth certificates, ID cards, passports, domestic athlete registration cards and domestic and international authentication for competitions.

In addition, athletes under 16 have also undergone bone-age checks through nuclear magnetic resonance.

The strict measures come as no surprise as the "age issue" has aroused great controversy in China over the past few years.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) nullified gymnast Dong's Sydney results in February, claiming her birth date, registered at the Beijing Olympics, where she worked as a national technical official, was Jan 23, 1986, which would have made her 14 in Sydney - younger than the age limit of 16. Her birth date in the FIG database is listed as Jan 20, 1983.

Also, the registered birth date of Yi Jianlian, power forward of the New Jersey Nets in the NBA, is Oct 27, 1987. However, local media went to his hometown in 2008 and reported he was born in 1984, according to his registration form in junior high school.

The age of Chen Ruolin, the gold medalist in the women's 10m platform and 10m synchronized platform diving events at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, was also questioned. Chen was born on April 26, 1994, according to the Chinese national diving registration list in 2003, but the date was changed to Dec 12, 1992, in 2007.

In diving, competitors must turn 14 during the year they compete in any official World Cup, World Championships or Olympics. If Chen was born in 1994, she would have been competing illegally at the 2007 World Championships, where she won a gold and a silver.

The Chinese delegation, spearheaded by Qiu Bo, who won a silver medal in the men's 10m platform at the 2009 World Championships, will compete in 19 of the 23 sports on show.

Apart from the official sporting events, various other sports and cultural activities will be held for the teenage athletes during the inaugural Youth Olympics, and China's sports stars Feng Kun, the captain and setter of the gold-winning women's volleyball team at the Athens Olympic Games, China's first Winter Olympics gold medal winner, Yang Yang, and four-time Olympic gold-medal winning diver Guo Jingjing will share their experiences with the teenagers in Singapore.

The Games will feature about 5,000 athletes and officials from the 205 National Olympic Committees, along with an estimated 1,200 media representatives, 20,000 local and international volunteers and more than 370,000 spectators.

The Games will be held every four years. Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, will host the second Youth Olympic Games in 2014.