FIG to adopt licensing system to prove gymnasts' age

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Gymnasts will now have to start showing ID long before the Olympics.

Beginning Jan. 1, all junior and senior gymnasts who represent their countries at most international meets will need a license from the International Gymnastics Federation. The licenses will include gymnasts' name, sex, country and date of birth and be their proof of age for their entire career.

The licensing system, approved by the FIG's executive committee at its Oct. 15-16 meeting and announced Monday, was in the works long before the Beijing Olympics. But it got new attention after questions were raised about the ages of China's gold medal-winning women's team, with media reports and online records suggesting some of the girls could be as young as 14.

The FIG announced Oct. 1 that all six gymnasts were old enough to compete, but only after more than a month of reviewing passports, ID cards and family registers. Gymnasts must turn 16 during the Olympic year in order to compete.

Although the licenses won't stop the sport's problem of age manipulation -- licenses will be based on passports submitted by national federations -- it will give the FIG proof of an athlete's age long before he or she shows up at an Olympics or world championships. Olympic champion Nastia Liukin, for example, competed at the Junior Pan American Championships when she was 13.

The FIG also announced defibrillators will be required at every competition.