IOC Requests Inquiry on Ages

By Liz Clarke and Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 22, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 22 -- The International Olympic Committee has asked the governing body for gymnastics to reexamine the issue of whether gymnast He Kexin was underage when she helped the Chinese women's team to the gold medal and won the individual gold on the uneven bars.

The IOC emphasized that it is not launching a formal investigation, but rather is seeking clarification from the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) and the Chinese gymnastics federation about continuing allegations that He was too young to compete. The IOC's decision was first reported by the Times of London.

"You shouldn't regard this as some kind of formal investigation," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said at a news conference Friday morning. "Simply there have been questions on the table and discrepancies alluded to. . . . The IOC simply wants to do due diligence and work with the international federation to 100 percent clarify this situation and put it to rest."

FIG has consistently refused to investigate the matter, arguing that passport information supplied by China or any other country is sufficient.

André Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the FIG, told the Associated Press that the federation would release a statement later Friday.

"For the time being, there is nothing I can add," Gueisbuhler said.

Chinese officials have insisted that He is 16, although news organizations have cited documents from her juniors career that state otherwise and suggest that she is 14, which would be a violation of the rules for Olympic competition. A gymnast must be 16 during the calendar year in which the Olympics are held.

"These documents already have been clarified . . . " said Wang Wei, a spokesman for the Beijing Organizing Committee. "The eligibility of the athletes has already been investigated and cleared by the international federation."

IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi said the organization met with the Chinese gymnastics federation before the Games.

"The international federation is asking again the national federation to produce evidence for eligibility but so far everything received has demonstrated no problem for the eligibility of these competitors," he said.

Chinese Coach Lu Shanzhen told the Associated Press the Chinese federation gave the FIG new documents on Thursday to try to remove the doubts about He's age, including an old passport, a residency card and her current ID card. Lu said all these documents were issued by various departments of the Chinese government.

He and American Nastia Liukin, 18, earned the same score for their uneven bar routines, but He was awarded the gold medal under a tiebreaker formula. The IOC would have the power to strip He of her medals if she was found to have competed in violation of the rules.

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