October 2, 2008 / 12:57 AM / 9 years ago

Chinese Olympic gymnasts not underage: FIG

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese female gymnasts who competed at this year’s Beijing Olympics were not underage, the sport’s governing body said on Wednesday after investigating claims the Games hosts fielded ineligible athletes.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) had asked the Chinese federation to submit documents proving the birthdates of five members of the gold medal-winning team, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, Li Shanshan, Deng Linlin and Yang Yilin.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had specifically asked the FIG to investigate double Olympic gold-medalist He, who was registered as 16 although media reports suggested she may have been 14.

Gymnasts must turn 16 in the year of an Olympics to take part.

“Originals of official documents received from the Chinese Gymnastics Association, specifically passports, identity cards and family booklets or ‘Household Registers’, confirm the ages of the athletes,” the FIG said in a statement.

“The FIG has shared its conclusions with the International Olympic Committee, which originally requested the inquiry. It is considered that the case is now concluded.”

REPEATEDLY DENIED

Chinese coaches and gymnasts had repeatedly denied the accusations of lying about age.

China collected nine of the 14 gold medals up for grabs in the artistic gymnastics.

American Nastia Liukin, who lost the Olympic asymmetric bars title under a tiebreak rule to He, said she was pleased with the level of scrutiny given to the issue.

“When the questions arose originally in the press all anyone in the gymnastics and Olympic communities wanted was closure which we now have,” Liukin said in a statement. “Again, I congratulate my competitors from China and look forward to using my successes to help others.”

The FIG also said it would investigate the ages of two members of the Chinese women’s team that won bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun.

“The FIG does not consider the explanations and evidence provided to date in regards to these athletes as satisfactory,” it said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Ed Osmond

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