Chris Chase

Déjá vu: China accused of altering athlete's birthdates

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

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China is once again under fire from the international sporting community after eight figure skaters were found to have different birthdates from the official ones given to the International Skating Union.

The Associated Press discovered discrepancies in the birthdates of eight athletes on the official website of the China Skating Association. In a twist, some of the doctored ages made athletes appear younger in order to get under the age limit at junior skating events. Previously, China had been caught altering ages of gymnasts to make them old enough to get past international age minimums.

It doesn't appear that the age issues will affect any Olympic medals, but a junior world championship could be in jeopardy if the allegations are proven to be true.

The Associated Press writes:

According to ISU rules, skaters must be 15 by the preceding July 1 to compete at an Olympics or senior world championships, and 14 for other senior-level international competitions, such as the Grand Prix final. Junior skaters must be at least 13 the previous July 1 but cannot have turned 19 (singles) or 21 (pairs and ice dancers).

According to the records found by the AP on the federation website, Zhang Dan was born Oct. 4, 1987, meaning she would have been only 14 when she and Zhang Hao - no relation - competed at the 2002 Olympics and world championships. The Zhangs were 11th in Salt Lake City and ninth at worlds.

Zhang Hao, meanwhile, was born on Feb. 6, 1982, according to his birthdate on the federation website. That would have made him too old to compete at the 2003 junior world championships, which they won.

China came under fire at the 2008 Olympics for similar discrepencies. Last year the country was stripped of a team medal from the 2000 Olympics when it was proved that the team competed with an athlete who was too young to compete.

Despite the past history, the IOC's response to the newest allegation was as feeble as ever. Organization president Jacques Rogges said of the matter:

"Definitely, if there is a discrepancy it must be solved. We had the situation with gymnastics where sanctions were taken when the truth emerged. I can say that in this case, which I don't know in detail, definitely, we would urge both parties to come up with the truth and then decisions will be taken. As I said I will check with my sports department."

Oh, you're going to ask the Chinese Skating Association to come up with the truth, are you? The same Chinese Skating Association accused of sending out those ineligible athletes and doctoring birth records? What do they expect China to say? "You got us, we lied?" If they're going to take the accused's word for it, why not stop all drug testing and just ask athletes if they're cheating?

The Chinese athletic associations have proved that they can't be trusted to adhere to age limits. If the IOC is serious about putting a stop to this, nothing short of a full-fledged, independent investigation will suffice. But the IOC isn't serious, so they'll run their sham inquiry, accept the ages after China provides some documents and then maybe issue some slaps on the wrist years down the road.

They say age means nothing. China and the IOC couldn't agree more.

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