Investigation Finds Chinese Gymnasts Were Underage: Should They Forfeit Medals?

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2010

Remember the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000? Remember the outcry over the apparent youthful looks of the Chinese women's gymnastics team?

Turns out, the Chinese cheated.

Cheating is a strong word, but this is exactly what this was: C-H-E-A-T-I-N-G.

The International Olympic Committee has completed its review of the International Gymnastics Federation's investigation—and like the NCAA, it was a bit tardy in making a conclusion that, for all intents and purposes, no one cares about anymore.

I care. And I'm ticked.

Dong Fangxiao was 14 during the Sydney Games, and international rules dictate that a female gymnast in Olympic competition must be 16 years old in the year the Olympics are held.

According to an ESPN report, a second gymnast, Yang Yun, was suspected of also being underage, but "there was insufficient evidence her age had been falsified, and the FIG said it was giving her a warning."

Yang, by the way, admitted she was 14 years old at the Sydney Games—but she got away with a warning.

A warning? That must have made the Chinese shake in their boots.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

But let's get beyond that and look at the real issue—should Team USA now get a bronze medal because they finished fourth?

The Chinese have indicated that they really think this is no big deal. In fact, they practically mocked the investigation's findings.

Zhang Haifeng, the Chinese Olympic Committee's press attache at the Vancouver Games, said the IOC's review was an "old story."

"That was in 2000. Now is 2010," he said. "This was 10 years ago."

The problem is, the Summer Games in Beijing begged the same question—are the Chinese gymnasts underage?

Mr. Haifeng, is two years an old story, too?

One gymnast went on the record to let her feelings be known about cheaters getting rewarded at the Olympics—Dominique Dawes, a member of Team USA's 2000 squad.

"I'm happy to know that justice is being served," said Dawes. "There are rules in place, and if they are broken, there should be penalties."

FIG has recommended that China be stripped of its bronze medal for the women's team gymnastics, but because this involves Olympic competition, the IOC has ultimate authority in making the final determination.

Will the IOC reward the true third-place finisher?

Will the Chinese realize that using underage gymnasts is cheating? That these young girls have greater flexibility, less fear, and a lower center of gravity than older gymnasts?

Will the Olympics ever be clean?

*Special thanks to ESPN for its outstanding article , which was used as a source.