Two Chinese gymnasts suspected of being underage at the 2000 Olympics aren’t off the hook yet.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) announced on Tuesday it had turned the investigation into Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun’s eligibility over to its disciplinary commission.
The commission, established last Friday, will give its decision to the FIG’s executive committee by the end of September, at the latest.
Questions about Dong and Yang’s ages arose during the FIG’s investigation into the eligibility of several members of China’s team that won the gold medal at the Beijing Games.
The 2008 gymnasts were cleared in October, but the FIG said it wasn’t satisfied with “the explanations and evidence provided to date” for Dong and Yang.
“It’s ridiculous that we are being subjected to this level of dealing with this issue, in my opinion,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “I just cannot understand why anyone associated with the Olympic movement would feel like they would put themselves or the sport in jeopardy at this level.”
“The age limit is the age limit,” he said. “Whether you agree with it or not, it is what it is. For this to be an issue that surrounded two Olympic games, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”
If the disciplinary commission finds Dong and Yang were underage in Sydney, it will propose sanctions.
Based on previous cases, that could include wiping out China’s results in Sydney. When the FIG discovered North Korea’s Kim Gwang-suk had been listed as 15 for three years in a row, it stripped her of her gold medal on uneven bars at the 1991 world championships, nullified her results and barred North Korea from the 1993 Worlds.
• Sinon Bulls 12,
La New Bears 8
(postponed from June 11)
Because this case involves the Olympics, however, it would be up to the International Olympic Committee to decide if China should lose any medals.
The Chinese women were the bronze medalists in Sydney, and Yang also won a bronze medal on uneven bars. The US women were fourth in 2000, while Viktoriya Karpenko of Ukraine was fourth on bars.
“We can cancel results, but we cannot cancel the medals,” said Andre Gueisbuhler, the FIG’s secretary general. “To withdraw the medals, the IOC would have to take this step.”
Rached Gharbi of Tunisia will chair the disciplinary committee, which also includes Margarida Dias Ferreira of Portugal and Marc Schoenmaekers of Belgium. Gueisbuhler said the committee already has gotten all of the documentation for the case and has had its first meeting.
Dong and Yang, along with the Chinese federation, will be given the opportunity to defend themselves to the commission, likely at a hearing.
“The world is watching, and everybody has their own point of view. Hopefully, the FIG will get to a place where it feels good about the decision it’s making,” Penny said.
The FIG spent the last several months getting legal advice before determining the statute of limitations had not run out and that it was the proper authority to investigate. It did not gather any new evidence, Gueisbuhler said.
Yang said in a June 2007 interview that aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 in Sydney.
Yang later told reporters she had misspoken, but declined further comment.
Dong’s official birthdate is listed as Jan. 20, 1983. But the FIG said accreditation information for the Beijing Olympics, where Dong worked as a national technical official, listed her birthdate as Jan. 23, 1986.