Olympic controversy prompts change

HELSINKI, Finland -- Gymnasts will be able to appeal their scores to judges using video replays under a new rule passed Friday by the sport's world governing body.

The international federation, known as FIG, also raised the
minimum age limit for Olympics and world championships by one year
to 16. The rule, for men and women, will go into effect in 2009.

The rule on scoring protests takes effect immediately. It
applies only to the level of difficulty of a routine, not the

"Inquiries for the difficulty scores are allowed, provided that they are made verbally immediately after the publication of the
score," said FIG secretary-general Andre Gueisbuhler. "The
inquiry must be confirmed in writing immediately after the
publication of the scores."

FIG spokesman Philippe Silacci said the written protest must be
filed within two minutes. Another jury would review the routine on
video replay and make a decision by the end of the rotation or
group. No further appeals are allowed.

The new rule comes in the wake of the controversy in the men's
individual event at Athens Olympics involving American Paul Hamm
and South Korea's Yang Tae-young.

Two days after Hamm won the gold, FIG said Yang was wrongly
docked a tenth of a point from the start, or difficulty, value of
the parallel bars routine. Yang won the bronze, finishing 0.049
points behind Hamm.

Yang protested, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport declared
Hamm the rightful winner.

Under current age rules valid for the 2008 Beijing Games,
gymnasts must be 15 in the year of an Olympics or world

FIG vice president Michel Leglise warned "about the dangers of
a low age and about the negative impacts which could occur."

A decision on a new judging system, replacing the traditional
10.0 scoring system with an open-ended format, won't be made until
the FIG executive committee meets in Baku, Azerbaijan, before the
Oct. 5-9 rhythmic world championships.