B. Karolyi Takes Aim At Age Requirement
Monday, August 11, 2008
Bela Karolyi, the former coach who crafted Olympic champions Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton, accused China of "dirty cheating" for fielding gymnasts he believes to be underage in the Beijing Games.
"Are we stupid or what?" Karolyi said in an interview yesterday after watching China's female gymnasts perform at the National Indoor Stadium. "They are obviously kids -- 12 or 14 [years old], max -- and you're telling the world they are 16? What arrogance!"
Karolyi dismissed the remedy proposed by the International Gymnastics Federation -- a competitor's license certifying each athlete's age according to passport data -- as meaningless.
"The passport is made by the Chinese government," Karolyi said. "They can do any kind of documents."
Instead, he argued that the only solution was to abandon the age minimum altogether and let gymnasts as young as 11 or 12 compete in international meets.
Karolyi, 65, has retired from coaching but is in Beijing as an analyst for NBC. He is married to Martha Karolyi, coordinator of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.
The sport's latest controversy centers on Chinese gymnasts He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin. According to their official biographies, He is 16 and weighs 73 pounds; Jiang is 16 and weighs 71 pounds; and Yang is 15 (with a birthday Aug. 26) and 77 pounds. All but one of China's six gymnasts are listed as 15 or 16; all but one weigh less than 80 pounds.
Said Bela Karolyi: "You don't have to be a gymnastics coach -- just a good mom and dad -- to say, 'Wait a minute! I have children! I know what a child looks like at 11 years old and at 16 years old.' "
Karolyi insisted he was not criticizing China's gymnasts, but only objecting to the sport having an age requirement it cannot enforce.
WADA Is Watching
Weightlifting, cycling and other sports with a history of drug scandals must clean up their acts or risk being barred.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is monitoring the Olympics to assess whether athletes are complying with the agency's drug-testing code, WADA President John Fahey said.
"Some sports such as weightlifting have a pretty bad record, and that is demonstrated time and again with numerous athletes from that sport," Fahey said. "I think weightlifting understands, as cycling understands, that there is a huge risk for both those sports if the cheating is continued and continued to be exposed."
Meantime, in the first official doping case of the Beijing Olympics, Spanish cyclist María Isabel Moreno was kicked out of the games Monday after testing positive for EPO.
Moreno, who was due to compete in the women's individual time trial, was tested in the Athletes' Village on July 31 and left China later the same day before learning the result.
International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Moreno's sample came back positive for EPO, a blood-boosting hormone that enhances endurance.
The IOC expelled Moreno from the Games and asked cycling's world governing body, UCI, to follow up for any further sanctions.