IOC launch inquiry into 'underage' gymnasts
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 22 August 2008
The International Olympic Committee is to examine claims that He Kexin, the Chinese gymnast who won gold on the uneven bars on Monday, is too young to compete in the Games.
The Chinese authorities have denied the allegation that He is in fact 14-years-old, saying her passport, which was issued in February, proves she is 16 –her date of birth is given as 1 January 1992 and therefore at the age at which female gymnasts are allowed to compete in the Games. But the IOC last night said that it was to open an official inquiry, which could result in He being stripped of her medals.
"More information has come to light that did point to discrepancies," said Giselle Davies, an IOC spokesperson. "We have asked the gymnastics federation to look into it further with the national Chinese federation. If there is a question mark, and we have a concern – which we do – we ask the governing body of any sport to look into... as to why there is a discrepancy."
He, who stands 4ft 8in and weighs 5st 2lb, won gold in the team event as well alongside Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin, who have both also had their ages queried. Previous documents listed them as 14 – they are now on official records as being 16.
Concerns about He's age have been expressed since before the Games began, but following her stunning success on the uneven bars on Monday, when she finished ahead of Nastia Liukin of the US – with Britain's Beth Tweddle in fourth – they have intensified. Two official Chinese gymnastic websites had given He's date of birth as 1994 before they were both "blocked."
After China won the team gold Martha Karolyi, the US coach, implied that the Chinese gymnasts were still losing their baby teeth. But He insists she has every right to compete in Beijing. "My real age is 16," she said. "I don't care what other people say. I want other people to know that 16 is my real age."
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