Age probe of Chinese gymnasts ongoing

COPENHAGEN -- A ruling on whether China competed with two underage gymnasts at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney has been pushed back until at least next year.

A disciplinary commission of the International Gymnastics Federation told that group's executive committee, which met Sept. 23-25, that it has yet to finish its investigation.

"Basically, the disciplinary commission has not yet come to a conclusion, and they are working on it," the FIG's secretary general, Andre Gueisbuhler, said Monday, speaking to The Associated Press.

If the gymnasts were underage, the commission could recommend sanctions to the FIG's executive committee. It won't meet again until the end of February, so no decision can come before then, Gueisbuhler said.

The gymnasts, Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun, are suspected of being as young as 14 in Sydney. Gymnasts must turn 16 during an Olympic year to be eligible to compete.

Because this case involves the Olympics, it would be up to the International Olympic Committee to decide if China should lose any medals. China's women were bronze medalists in Sydney, and Yang also won a bronze medal on uneven bars. The U.S. women were fourth in 2000, while Viktoriya Karpenko of Ukraine was fourth on bars.

The IOC has said previously it would take "necessary measures" if the FIG finds Dong and Yang were underage.

Questions about Dong's and Yang's ages arose during the FIG's investigation into the eligibility of 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.

Yang said in a June 2007 interview that aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 in Sydney. Yang later told the AP 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.

That would have made Dong 14 in Sydney.

"We have contradictory documents as to age," Gueisbuhler said.

Dong's blog also said she was born in the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac, which dated from Feb. 20, 1985, to Feb. 8, 1986. Dong has not denied that, but she refused to answer any questions about her age when reached by the AP.