FanDuel - WFBC

August 22, 2008

When is enough "enough"?: Hoping to put a definitive end to a simmering controversy, China was asked to provide additional documents that prove that five of the six team members were old enough to compete at these games. Although they had already provided these documents several times before, due to a website claim that the Chinese gymnasts were underage, the inquiry persists. Sour grapes for the Americans? Many international commentators think so.

Should the US quit whining or purue this endeavor? Or has the Chinese government used its clandestine powers to usurp gold from the BOGOC? Read the entire story before responding please. I for one as an American citizen am sick of the bitching....

posted by knowsalittle to olympics at 10:37 PM - 35 comments

Whining about whining, eh?

A couple of the girls on the Chinese team did look like they were 10 years old. I would keep pressing, too.

posted by DudeDykstra at 11:52 PM on August 22

There's been some dubious judging on a lot of Chinese won events. My wife was the first to say "Is it just me? Or have the Chinese done well in all the scoring events?" This came after I was extremely suspicious during the Womens 3m Synchro Diving where the Chinese kept getting huge scores, despite not even being synchronised on a couple of occasions, and far better diving pairs were getting lower scores.

Sour grapes for the Americans? Well since I'm not American, hate the American patriotic fervor surrounding the olympics, and having their gold taken away won't benefit my home country in any way shape or form, I'd have to say, it's not sour grapes, because they should keep pushing to find out as some of them did look very VERY young.

posted by Drood at 12:02 AM on August 23

When is enough enough?

Apparently memories run short. Remember the East German female athletes? Gee, a little testosterone sure went a long way, didn't it.

posted by stanko at 01:28 AM on August 23

Agreed, Drood. Why is it so hard to provide documents? If they are of age to compete, then give the IOC what they want, and end the speculation. Over. Done. Go home, enjoy the medals, your team was great, they deserve it.

I do think that China should remember that this isn't something new, even they may have done it themselves. As recent as 2000. So by no means do I consider the speculation unwarranted.

posted by BoKnows at 02:01 AM on August 23

As BoKnows points out, if the IOC had done their job in 2000 when China did this the last time, then maybe there wouldn't be a controversy. Liukin wasn't allowed to compete in the last Olympics because she wasn't old enough, even though she was plenty good enough. Those are the rules, right?

I do think the U.S. probably has a heightened sense of outrage over unfairness. And, I don't know what proof I would be happy with at this point.

posted by bperk at 09:53 AM on August 23

When is enough enough?

Well, here's the last graph of the story for those of you who missed it:

Even China's own Yang Yun, a double bronze medalist in Sydney, said during an interview aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 during the 2000 Games.

We cheated in the past in gymnastics. We remove children from their families to train in gymnastics.

Us, cheat in gymnastics? How can you say such a thing?!?

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:14 AM on August 23

There's been some dubious judging on a lot of Chinese won events. My wife was the first to say "Is it just me? Or have the Chinese done well in all the scoring events?" This came after I was extremely suspicious during the Womens 3m Synchro Diving where the Chinese kept getting huge scores, despite not even being synchronised on a couple of occasions, and far better diving pairs were getting lower scores.

In general, judging events are always suspect because of the human factor. However, most judging events use multiple judges from different nations, so you'd need to have a other nations helping China "cheat". As well, even if you had another nation willing to boost China's score, there is a system in place where they drop the highest and lowest scores before the calculations. Therefore, you'd need to have at least TWO other nations in on the scam.

At that point, you're getting into tinfoil-hat territory.

(Yes, there was judging scandals at the Winter Olympics with regards to figure skating, but that has since been cleaned up with an even more judging/scoring system.)

posted by grum@work at 10:25 AM on August 23

There was also the judging scandal from the 1988 Summer Olympics, where Roy Jones, Jr. basically had the gold medal stolen from him in boxing, but that's another topic altogether.

What sort of amuses me about all of the different mini-scandals involving the Chinese in these games (gymnastics, lip-synching in the opening ceremonies, etc.), is that there are so many media types that are shocked that Communists occasionally lie about things. But maybe that's just me.

posted by TheQatarian at 11:57 AM on August 23

The thing is, when the whole of the state apparatus is crooked (as opposed to just a sporting federation within the state), there is really not much that can be done in a situation like this. The Chinese government controls the official birth/identity records, and will presumably be happy to rewrite those records in the interest of national greatness and international prestige. So ultimately there will not be a smoking gun or definitive proof that the athletes in question are not of the minimum age; the Chinese government has already been quick to trot out passports (issued earlier this year) to refute claims that prior ID numbers and the like suggest earlier birthdates. Say what you want about the U.S. and other western nations, but the likelihood of a government of one of those nations falsifying documents or recreating vital records in the interest of sporting success is probably quite low.

posted by holden at 12:40 PM on August 23

What do the Olympics teach our children? That cheating is OK if you get away with it? That's the Olympic spirit?

posted by graymatters at 12:45 PM on August 23

how is it a sport when you hit the absolute top of your game at 14?

posted by chmurray at 02:16 PM on August 23

I have never been a big fan of any sport in which the officials/judges play such a large roll.

Sure, football officials can change a game with a bad call every now and then, but it's not like they rate each play on artistic achievement.

While I'm obviously not in position to know the truth on the ages of the Chinese gymnasts, it does seem to me that since some of these girls were registered for prior events as being ages that would make them too young for this olympics, cheating has to be occurring.

Age based cheating will occur as long as there is a benefit to doing so, probably no way to stop it.

posted by dviking at 02:37 PM on August 23

Couple of things.

First, to many of us in the Western World, Chinese (and Asian) children look younger than they actually are. It is conceivably possible that these very young looking girls are, in fact, over the minimum age limit. So the "they look so young" argument doesn't really hold much water.

That said, there seems to be a bunch of evidence suggesting that the Chinese athletes were younger than is allowed. Many of these pieces of evidence come from news websites in China that have since been scrubbed - websites in a country where the news media is fairly strictly monitored and regulated.

Three things are possible. The news sites could have been wrong. The news sites could have deliberately misrepresented the ages of the athletes to discredit Chine. The news sites could have reported accurate information and somebody in the government didn't notice it and pull it soon enough.

Occam's Razor suggests that the third possibility is the most likely to be true, since it relies more on incompetence than malice.

Of course, it is possible that no cheating occurred. However, it is in the sports' best interest to clear this up once and for all. If it turns out that they were old enough to compete after all, all the folks that accused them owe them a public apology. If it turns out they were cheating, they deserve to lose their medals.

posted by Joey Michaels at 02:48 PM on August 23

I follow gymnastics regularly. The first time I saw He Kexin was at 2007 Chinese Nationals. The information available said that she had a 1994 birthdate and would not be eligible for Beijing. Imagine my surprise when she showed up on the Olympic training team.

If this much circumstancial evidence piled up around an athlete suspected of doping, the IOC would disqualify him or her immediately. This shouldn't be different.

posted by swerve at 04:04 PM on August 23

The IOC doesn't suspend athletes for circumstantial evidence on doping, they suspend them when they fail drug tests.

I have no idea if there is any substance to these allegations, but whatever their age, they won right? Unless you subscribe to the international conspiracy theory, as grum pointed out, these gymnasts won fair and square. They were the best gymnasts at the Olympics. Making a big deal about their age seems like, no actually it reeks of, sour grapes.

Athletes should win gold medals, not lawyers.

posted by sic at 04:28 PM on August 23

Except the rules say that you must be a certain age (those rules established to protect the girls) and if you were younger and you won then it would be cheating.

Since other websites and sources (even government ones) seem to be disappearing faster than dissidents and Christians, I'd say that something is afoot and there is a conspiracy of some sort.

posted by Monica Poland at 04:50 PM on August 23

Katerina Thanou has been banned from the Olympics without a failed drug test. The IOC felt that she had "[brought] the Olympic Games into disrepute."

The IOC said the move to use this power signalled the strength of its feeling against Thanou's behaviour that was of "very serious prejudice to the Olympic Movement" and raise "significant moral considerations".

posted by swerve at 05:11 PM on August 23

I have no idea if there is any substance to these allegations, but whatever their age, they won right? Unless you subscribe to the international conspiracy theory, as grum pointed out, these gymnasts won fair and square. They were the best gymnasts at the Olympics. Making a big deal about their age seems like, no actually it reeks of, sour grapes.

I really don't understand this attitude at all. If they are underage, they cheated. No other country got to send their best gymnasts to even compete if they were under 16. Do you believe that only China has girls under 16 ready to compete at the Olympics?

Therefore, you'd need to have at least TWO other nations in on the scam.

It doesn't have to be a scam for the judges to be biased for or against a particular gymnast, style, or country.

posted by bperk at 05:28 PM on August 23

I for one do believe that there were at least two or three girls that are underage. It is a fact though that on average the height of the Chinese team was shorter than that of the US team but event with this in mind they still looked too young. You could tell just by the way there faces look and from the news reports that I have seen and heard there is a good amount of information to say that these girls are too young. Unless the Chinese government can provide more records on there age other than a passport that of which they have complete control over on the information in it, they should be stripped of there medals because if the US did anything like this we would never here the end of it.

posted by sox1903 at 05:51 PM on August 23

Unless the Chinese government can provide more records on there age other than a passport that of which they have complete control over on the information in it, they should be stripped of there medals

What record of your age is not controlled by your government?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:55 AM on August 24

This is a sad situation that I believe that will never be resolved. It's not like you can cut her open and count the rings. Cheating has and always will be a part of the Olympics and that too is a shame. But can you imagine how He feels if indeed she truly is 16? Innocent until proven guilty is my standard. Do I trust the Chinese...hell no. I say pursue it until all viable options have been exhausted and then live with the results of the investigation. Being a sore loser is not the way to go.

posted by budman13 at 02:15 PM on August 24

Does no one remember the games of the 70's and 80's when the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact judges consistently scored American athletes far below their own even when the Americans were clearly better?

We won't even talk about the East German women athletes that had more hair on their chest than grum.

I don't call it sour grapes when you have trained yourself to a frenzy for four years, arrive at the Olympics at the height of your ability, only to have your chance at a medal stolen by someone who cheated. Besides, the IOC is driving this harder than the Americans.

posted by irunfromclones at 09:00 PM on August 24

How can being less experienced and physically less developed be cheating?

posted by bobfoot at 10:37 PM on August 24

Here's some more of the smoking gun. www.huffingtonpost.com

bobfoot, I don't have any backing to these claims, but I've heard that the younger girls are more flexible for one. Two, their bones haven't matured enough to prevent considerable damage to their bodies as they do grow older. And three, they don't have the same level of mental pressure/experience that the older girls have, which could help them to be more "fearless".

posted by BoKnows at 11:50 PM on August 24

Bela Karolyi had to be calmed down by Bob Costas, presumably because he knows how the system works from the inside. For what it's worth, he thinks the age limit is stupid, and that the real problem is that the US can't put 14-year-olds on the Olympic stage.

My attitude is that the women's competition needs changing to include something approaching the strength elements that raise the average age of top-level male gymnasts. Jordan Jovtchev bowed out at the age of 35 in Beijing; the rings medallists were 24, 28 and 24.)

As the women's programme stands, there's an incentive to shove children into the meat-grinder. Even the American training programme for women's gymnastics is based upon squeezing as much out of girls between the ages of 16 and 20: Alicia Sacramone's probably over the hill at 21; Shawn Johnson isn't sure her body will hold up for London in 2012; Mary Lou Retton's now an endorsee for a total hip replacement procedure.

posted by etagloh at 01:51 AM on August 25

clones:

I don't call it sour grapes when you have trained yourself to a frenzy for four years, arrive at the Olympics at the height of your ability, only to have your chance at a medal stolen by someone who cheated.

Well, no, it's not exactly sour grapes, but in the words of the old story, "you knew it was a snake when you picked it up". Anybody who didn't just fall off the cabbage truck has to know that in high stakes competition, there's always some athlete who will try any stunt they can think of to get an advantage (or parent, coach, or official of a governing body who will encourage/enable/coerce them to do the same). This is a somewhat heartless thing to say, but I guess I don't understand why an athlete today would go to the Olympics and not expect to be up against against this kind of shenanigans as well as their opponent's athletic ability.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:15 AM on August 25

This is a somewhat heartless thing to say, but I guess I don't understand why an athlete today would go to the Olympics and not expect to be up against against this kind of shenanigans as well as their opponent's athletic ability.

I'm confused. Is your point here that everyone should cheat to level the playing field or that the non-cheaters should just try their best knowing that others in the competion are creating their own advantage?

posted by bender at 08:51 AM on August 25

I'm confused. Is your point here that everyone should cheat to level the playing field or that the non-cheaters should just try their best knowing that others in the competion are creating their own advantage?

Neither. I'm saying that nobody should be surprised that there are elite athletes (or their parents or coaches or etc.) who will try whatever they think they might get away from in order to gain an advantage. So you "train yourself to a frenzy", get all worked up for your Big Moment, and go and compete in an environment where you know that everyone is trying to get an edge. For their own mental health, honest athletes should approach the situation a bit more cynically. Losing because someone else used an outside-the-rules advantage and didn't get caught is a fact of sports: it doesn't happen all the time, but it happens, and the higher the stakes, the more likely it's going to happen. Athletes have to want to win, but they also can't be so emotionally brittle, so dependent on winning that they can't handle losing -- for whatever reason. The Chinese gymnastics team has a history of underage athletes, and it seems it popped up again at this Olympics? Well...you knew it was a snake when you picked it up.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:17 AM on August 25

My attitude is that the women's competition needs changing to include something approaching the strength elements that raise the average age of top-level male gymnasts.

That's a very good point, and shouldn't be all that hard to do. Make more of the required elements strength related.

posted by bperk at 12:05 PM on August 25

Neither. I'm saying that nobody should be surprised that there are elite athletes (or their parents or coaches or etc.) who will try whatever they think they might get away from in order to gain an advantage. So you "train yourself to a frenzy", get all worked up for your Big Moment, and go and compete in an environment where you know that everyone is trying to get an edge. For their own mental health, honest athletes should approach the situation a bit more cynically. Losing because someone else used an outside-the-rules advantage and didn't get caught is a fact of sports: it doesn't happen all the time, but it happens, and the higher the stakes, the more likely it's going to happen. Athletes have to want to win, but they also can't be so emotionally brittle, so dependent on winning that they can't handle losing -- for whatever reason. The Chinese gymnastics team has a history of underage athletes, and it seems it popped up again at this Olympics? Well...you knew it was a snake when you picked it up.

I don't think anyone is arguing (or at least I certainly am not) that they are surprised that China (or anyone, for that matter) could be cheating to try to gain an advantage to win gold. I'm sure it happened more than will ever come to light. You're argument seems to be that if someone cheats and wins, the other competitors are supposed to just suck it up and get over it. Why can't they cry foul if they have probable cause? That doesn't make you a sore loser if you're right. Hell, that might not even make you a sore loser if you're wrong.

As for being emotionally brittle with regard to losing, I really don't see that being the case here. This was the talk of the Olympics from day one (and I'd bet sooner in gymnastics circles, but I am not familiar), and it still hasn't gone away. The problem there is that this is going to be tough to prove either way. That said, even if it ultimately doesn't change anything this time, it might make someone think twice about trying to pull it in 4 years.

posted by bender at 12:32 PM on August 25

I say press on. China has cheated in the past. Before the 2000 games they cheated at swimming in the 90s.

I speak as someone who generally likes China and the Chinese (my wife is from there).

posted by drumdance at 01:54 PM on August 25

If the point of the olympics is to prove, "who is the best in the world?", then who cares what their age is? If you are the best, you are the best, regardless of age. However, there is a rule, and if it was broken then there will be consequences. Would the U.S. be arguing about it if they won? Hell no, who would?

Since we are on the topic of inconsistent and just straight-up bad judging...did anyone watch any boxing? That shit is ridiculous. Olympic boxing is a farse, at best...

posted by docshredder at 07:21 PM on August 25

You're argument seems to be that if someone cheats and wins, the other competitors are supposed to just suck it up and get over it. Why can't they cry foul if they have probable cause?

Of course they can cry foul. They just shouldn't be heartbroken that the foul happened, and if they get no satisfaction out of crying foul, well...it's time to shake the dust off your feet and move on.

As for being emotionally brittle with regard to losing, I really don't see that being the case here.

Not AFAIK with the athletes; some fans seem to be a different matter.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:08 PM on August 25

If the point of the olympics is to prove, "who is the best in the world?", then who cares what their age is?

There's a book called "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" that explains far better than I could why a whole lot of people care.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:10 PM on August 25

There are two different argument going on here.

One is about the validity of the rule. The rule may or may not be valid and that, of course, is a point up for debate. Indeed, any rule in any sport is a point that can be fairly brought up for debate.

If you disagree with a current rule, that doesn't change the fact that the rule currently is in play. We're all sports fans here and can probably all agree on a dozen rules that are moronic. I'll cite my continuing disgust with the recent Michelle Wie "crossed the magic pixie line and got disqualified" event. I don't dispute that the LPGA was right to disqualify her, I just object to the way the LPGA handled it. And I think the rule is stupid.

If one disagrees with a rule, one can work to change that rule. In the meantime, the rule remains in play and enforceable.

The second issue is whether rule regarding minimal age limit of the gymnasts was broken or not.

Even if one disagrees with the rule, if the rule was broken, there should be consequences. The "everyone else breaks the rule so it should matter if X breaks the rule" argument is absurd. If you choose to break a rule, you do so with the knowledge that you may get caught and may be punished for it. The validity of the rule is not at issue - your compliance with the rule absolutely is.

The evidence against China is circumstantial, but significant. Hopefully, the investigation will, at the very least, come up with some convincing explanations for the age discrepancies that can put this issue to rest. It is damaging for the sport for an allegation of cheating to fester for too long.

posted by Joey Michaels at 08:49 PM on August 26

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