The 2008 Beijing Olympics are fascinating and trying — but the greatest testament against the spirit of competition is the obvious and purposeful “age faking” by the Chinese government to thwart the International Olympic Committee’s requirement that female gymnasts be at least 16-years-old during the year in which they are competing.

Here’s the USA women’s gymnastics team. 

You can tell just by looking at them that they are full-bodied and mature young women who are all at least 16-years-old.

Now look at the Chinese team.  They look like babies! 

Not all of them are 16 even though their official “documentation” from the Chinese government claims otherwise. 

He Kexin — the star of the team — appears to be only 14.

Bela Karolyi, famous women’s gymnastics coach and current NBC Sports
analyst, said on the air the other night that the Chinese women’s
gymnastics team is a “fraud” when it comes to age.

Karolyi also said there isn’t much you can do about the fraud when the documentation for age comes directly from the government perpetuating the fraud.

I don’t understand why the International Olympic Committee doesn’t care to try harder to prove the true age of the Chinese gymnasts when proof exists that many of the current ages are faked.

Is the IOC afraid of offending China? China doesn’t seem bothered by offending the spirit of competition under the Olympic rings.

If the IOC is adamant about testing for gender, and for performance enhancing drugs and for blood boosting — why doesn’t the IOC care about their own age requirements?

There must be a bone density scan or tooth enamel test that will prove the true age of any Olympic competitor. If the IOC wants us to care about its athletes, then the burden is on them to make sure every single country plays by the rules.

In light of these age revelations against China from inside China, the only route to restore the order and the grace of the Olympics is for the IOC to strip China of their team gold medal in women’s gymnastics and also revoke any medals won by those Chinese babies in the individual and single event contests.

If the IOC chooses to ignore the baby gymnasts and allow China to take broad political and moral revenge against the sports world — then we must choose to ignore the Olympics sponsors by voting with our pocketbooks to protest the Chinese cheating and demand a meaningful resolution in the name of fair play and the Olympic spirit.


  1. David,
    a scientific test to determine the age of the competitors by the IOC does seem like the way to go.
    there are obviously some people in the Chinese government for whom winning at any cost is justifiable.

  2. Dananjay —
    Right! The Chinese think they’re so smart beating the system — but they’ve been caught by their own press releases! What a crock! If the IOC doesn’t stand up to this brazen attempt to steal gold medals, then the whole Olympics are a crock, too.

  3. Hi David,
    The Chinese team does look underage – chaeting is not a new phenomenon in sports but the practice is sad – no question asked.
    On a different note:
    My personal experience says Asians, as a whole have a much smaller/thinner frame than the rest of the world.
    One of my friends used to look like 18 at the age of 28 with a height of 5′ and 105 pounds.
    Sorry for the information overload, but with a 5’6″ and 128 pounds I never thought I would be considered “small” in the other side of the globe and would hardly find any right size trouser to fit in…
    I was asked to try “junior” once!!!
    “Petite” didn’t fit in my waist, “junior” didn’t fit in length, “regular” looked like a tent except a specific brand and size – what a chaos!
    But jokes apart, I do agree – the team needs an unbiased test as a proof of their age.

  4. That’s a great comment, Katha! Thanks for that exquisite detail.
    Body types and racial and cultural differences must be taken into consideration at all times — especially when competing in international games that always have a dangerous political and militaristic undertow.
    Smaller and younger bodies are easier to bend and manipulate — but it was the overall long term health of the female gymnast that the IOC was trying to protect when it required the 16-year age limit for competition starting in 2000.
    Many young women were starving themselves — forced by coaches or country or temperament — in order to remain small and light and bendy and bouncy. To alleviate that threat to the future health of the gymnasts, an age limit was set so that fuller, mature, menses-regulated bodies were in competition instead of a forced infantilization of “child frames” that were falsely kept immature against natural biology.
    That IOC effort was noble and kind — but you have to go all the way with enforcement to do away with the easy falsification of records by member nations so they cannot get away with having children competing with grown women.

  5. Hey, this is great news!

    The International Olympic Committee has ordered an investigation into mounting allegations that Chinese authorities covered up the true age of their gold-medal winning gymnastics star because she was too young to compete.
    An IOC official told The Times that because of “discrepancies” that have come to light about the age of He Kexin, the host nation’s darling who won gold in both team and individual events, an official inquiry has been launched that could result in the gymnast being stripped of her medals.
    The investigation was triggered as a US computer expert claimed today to have uncovered Chinese government documents that he says prove she is only 14 – making her ineligible to compete in the Olympics – rather than 16, as officials in Beijing insist is her age.

  6. This is rather frightening. I am sad for these girls, having to do this from such a young age. Sort of reminds me of all of the great Romanian gymnasts from the 80’s who, when pressed, said they had to perform well or suffer later.

  7. Right, Gordon! Bela was part of that regime so he certainly knows precisely how these things are faked and feinted.
    I heard on Universal-HD last night that one Russian runner was given a state-sponsored two bedroom apartment when she won a gold medal in the world games and if she won gold in Beijing she would be given a three-bedroom flat for life.

  8. Thanks David!
    I absolutely agree with you and would really like to see IOC going for a proper investigation.

  9. Katha —
    Well, of course, the news breaking today in the Washington Post is the IOC isn’t going to do anything about China’s cheating:

    The IOC said Friday there is still no proof anyone cheated, though it asked the International Gymnastics Federation to investigate “what have been a number of questions and apparent discrepancies,” spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. However, all the information the Chinese gymnastics federation presented supports its insistence that its athletes were old enough to compete.
    “We believe the matter will be put to rest and there’s no question … on the eligibility,” Davies said. “The information we have received seems satisfactory in terms of the correct documentation _ including birth certificates.”
    It seems the real fraud in all of this is the self-righteous and sanctimonious IOC.

  10. Now here’s a fantastic idea:

    The science of determining age is has been honed by decades of treating patients with growth disorders, identifying youthful homicide victims and determining the deportation status of illegal immigrants.
    “It would be relatively easy,” said Dr. David Senn, a forensic odontologist at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center who has analyzed numerous X-rays of immigrants apprehended at the border.
    The science is based on measuring the growth of bones and teeth as children mature. Decades of data have been distilled into detailed tables recording the precise size and shape of skeletal components broken down by age, sex and race.
    The task is so straightforward that Dr. Peter Hampl, president of the American Board of Forensic Odontology, said the Chinese government should just consent to X-rays and let the films speak for themselves.
    “If there is nothing to be afraid of, let their kids be X-rayed,” he said. “It’s almost incriminating if they don’t.”,0,723391.story

  11. As both a gymnast and a 15 year old who can still pass for 11, it is worth pointing out that not only do some people naturally mature later than others, but these same girls tend to be attracted towards sports like gymnastics because people with smaller, lighter, more flexible frames tend to have a natural advantage in such sports.

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