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Better late than never: China loses 2000 Olympics gymnastics bronze

February 26, 2010 |  5:10 pm

Those pesky age issues with the Chinese women's gymnastics team are hard to keep up with.

On Friday, FIG -- the federation that governs international gymnastics -- recommended that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) take away the team bronze medal the Chinese earned at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, because FIG had discovered that the Chinese federation falsified the birth certificate of one of its competitors.

That competitor was not, however, Yang Yun. Shortly after those Olympics, Yang said in a television interview in China that she was 14 in Sydney. She would have been too young by two years to have legally competed.

Instead, FIG said the formal violation involved a second gymnast, Dong Fangxiao. FIG said Dong competed at the 2000 Games with a birth certificate stating she was born Jan. 20, 1983, which would have made her 17 in Sydney and age-eligible. During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, FIG said it discovered that when Dong was accredited to act as official secretary for the vault competition, she declared her birth date as Jan. 23, 1986. That would have made her 14 years old in Sydney as well.

FIG said that because the only evidence it has that Yang was too young in Sidney is her televised comments, it was not recommending sanctions because of Yang. 

Two weeks before the Beijing Olympics, evidence of possible discrepancies in the ages of three members of the eventual gold-medal-winning Chinese team were reported by several publications in the United States. At the time, FIG and the IOC said there was not enough evidence available to allow for an investigation.

Friday in Vancouver, the IOC issued a statement saying it had received the FIG's recommendation. The statement read: "We can confirm that we have received the ruling from the FIG in the case concerning Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun and we take due note of their decision.Clearly we need to take time to consider the findings before the Executive Board can consider the matter.We would like to thank the FIG for their work and we would refer further enquiries to them."

The U.S. finished fourth in the team competition in 2000 and might be in line to receive the bronze medal, though the IOC doesn't automatically issue another medal in such cases. The men's and women's teams left Sydney with no medals.

USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny said Friday, "FIG has done a pretty good job in trying to get to the bottom of what they can get to the bottom of. This is not an easy thing to try and resolve. It's not an easy set of circumstances to prove anything."

He also said he was "hopeful" that should the IOC revoke China's bronze medal, the U.S. team would receive it.

-- Diane Pucin

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