Age of Chinese “women” gymnasts

There have been many reports in the media recently that several of China’s female Olympic gymnasts are under the minimum age required to be eligible for the Olympics.  In fact, the Chinese media has reported that one of the gymnasts is now 13 or 14, even though an athlete has to turn 16 sometime during the year of the Olympics to be eligible.

The problem now is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will not do anything because they rely on passports to verify age.  The passports of the athletes in question show that they are eligible to compete. The IOC has apparently not grasped the fact that If a government is truly willing to win at all costs, then it can easily issue passports with a false date of birth.

One of the commenters in a previous post (8/13/08, 7:45 pm) suggested that they test bone tissue or the teeth to verify age. I did a Google search on “determining age children bone tissue” and “determining age children teeth” and these do seem to be fairly good tests (though if the child is 15, the tests could indicate that s(he) is 16 and vice versa.)

In my opinion, the use of what appears to be 11-12 year olds is morally much worse than athletes taking steroids and other prohibited substances. In other words, if they are going to test for drugs, they need to verify athletes’ ages.  Unfortunately, it appears that the IOC will do nothing.

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8 Responses

  1. I agree that we need a test, but I don’t think the current test is reliable enough. I read that paper on bone tissue. The standard deviation for girls aged 13-14 (which I think is the most relevant) is large (plus or minus three years). We can debate what level of certainty is required: I would think it would have to be >95% certain, meaning you need 2x the standard deviation. That would mean the error bar is about 6 years…

  2. Look at the teeth of the China girl’s gymnastic team. (I meant GIRLS literally) They are missing “baby teeth”. I’ve been a dental assistant and children with the teeth missing (like these girls) are usually 11 to 14 (sometimes younger) I’d like to read a dentist or doctor’s view on this.
    Plus the judges have been scoring these girls much higher than the women from other countries. (even with more mistakes)

    If the USA has to give back medals because of finding HGH, these girls should give back their medals if they are found to be younger than 16.

  3. I agree. This would be a misfortune in this case because it was China that cheated, not the girls. All they were doing was what their country wanted them to do.

  4. People create fake passports all the time so why should we believe China is being honest about their ages? For all we know, the passports examined by the IOC were fake too.

  5. Oh, China is definitely using fake passports. Unfortunately the IOC is too spineless to do anything about it.

  6. The Chinese Government is making the Passports, they are NOT FAKES, but they ARE FALSIFIED!!!

  7. The Chinese Government is making the Passports, they are NOT FAKES, but they ARE FALSIFIED!!!
    The IOC “must” make them give up their medals, otherwise they are saying it’s ok to cheat and lose ALL integrity. Others have been made to give up their medals, this is no different. The IOC has rules for a reason and “EVERYONE” must abide by them, if not it would be a free for all and anything goes. If one is not eligible, then come back when you are! If one is “EVER” caught cheating in the Olympics they should never be allowed to compete in them again…EVER!! That alone should keep them from cheating. If it is a “Country” like China that cheats at an event then they should be banned from that event “Forever”!
    Those Chinese girls should be allowed to compete again as they had “NO CHOICE”, just not for China!

  8. @Greenwood: Good point. I shouldn’t have called them fake.

    Unfortunately, it certainly appears that the IOC is going to do nothing.

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