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3,000 young Chinese athletes found to be older than they claim• X-rays of 15,000 reveal a fifth have misrepresented their ages
• Faking issue proves embarrassing ahead of Asian Games
Digg it, Wednesday 11 March 2009
Article history

Chinese gymnasts He Kexin and Yang Yilin were at the centre of an age controversy in Beijing last year. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

A Chinese sports ministry has found a fifth of 15,000 youth athletes have been misrepresenting their ages. The ministry in Guangdong province said it has undertaken x-ray bone analysis and found 3,000 were older than they had claimed.

Suspicions of age faking have dogged Chinese sport and at one stage threatened to cause huge embarrassment for the hosts at last year’s Beijing Olympics. Guangdong is hosting the Asian Games in its capital Guangzhou next year and the deputy sports bureau chief of the southern province said it will be taking no chances.

“We want to make sure fakers have no advantage,” Ye Xiquan told the Guangzhou daily newspaper.

The athletes tested were the top eight in each event at provincial youth competitions in 2008 and all those who had signed up for this year’s Provincial Games. The result showed 3,000 were older than they claimed, 2,000 of whom were no longer eligible for any youth sport and 1,000 who should have competed in different age categories. Ye said 16 athletes in one event had faked their ages and the worst offenders were up to seven years older than they were allowed to be.

Funding follows success in China’s state-run sports system so officials at city and provincial level have long been suspected of using overage players to help them win tournaments.

China was accused of adding years to the age of two gymnasts so they would be eligible to compete at last year’s Olympics after reports indicated the gold medallists might be younger than 16.

The governing International Gymnasts Federation investigated at the behest of the International Olympic Committee and was satisfied with documentary evidence provided by the Chinese authorities, while the Chinese Basketball Association last year discovered 26 players who had inaccurately registered their ages playing in its top league.