The Olympics may be ending, but the controversy surrounding the age of some of the members of the Chinese women’s gymnastics team is not.
After initially declining to investigate the ages of the girls in question — most notably the adorable little He Kexin — the International Olympic Committee has “ordered an investigation into mounting allegations that Chinese authorities covered up the true age of their gold-winning gymnastics star because she was too young to compete.” Much like the UN, the IOC seems loath to offend anyone but the U.S.
The article linked above, published at the UK Times Online, brought on a firestorm of commentary from readers. In the literally hundreds of comments, many were in agreement that if there is any question of the girl’s age, an investigation is warranted. There were also those who thought that even if she were underage, she should still be allowed to keep her medals.
To those who think her being underage — per requirements put into place in 1997 in order to ensure the safety of the athletes — should not be an issue because her performances were so outstanding, I pose this question: why have rules at all for any sport? Rules exist for a reason — to give competing athletes common ground from which to start. There are rules against steroid use, for instance, which no one seems to have a problem with — nor should they. Swimmers, runners, and other competitors are tested for these drugs on a daily basis throughout the competition. Age limits in gymnastics might seem unfair, but unless those rules are challenged and subsequently changed, they should be abided by.
Yet in addition to the comments arguing whether age should matter or not, there were a fair number of those that suggested the only reason this investigation has commenced is that the U.S. team took second place. In other words, American sour grapes. Here’s a sampling (all spelling and syntax from the original):
Americans moaning about cheating……..let us remain you guys because Americans don’t cheat do they…..Marion Jones,
Jerome Young, Kelli White to name just a few.
How come none of you Americans mention these CHEATS ???
You Yanks are just bad losers !
Helen Lambert, Epsom, UK
All americans are liers!
you can fake the age ,but you can’t fake the performance!!!!
cindy , hongkong, CHN
The Yanks can’t even tally the medals table honestly….take a look at CNN and have a laugh at the disgraceful frauds.
The official way to tally the medals table is by Gold then Silver then Bronze, not by total medals won, what a bunch of Losers.
Ian, Newcastle upon Tyne
How ever old someone is, they won their medal by their performance not by old they are. Bela Karolyi coached Nadia Comaneci who was 14 when she won her 1st Olympic Gold in 1976. How come the Americans didn’t complain then. It’s a case of the Americans be bad losers again. They lost. Accept it !!!
Chris Lee, Surrey, UK
Americans always like to criticize the other countries but always ignore themselves. They don’t even know they are the biggest cheater and liar in the world!!
Michael, Kingston, Canada
The US needs to stop crying and whining. Such sore sports, that they feel they need rouge sleuths to bring about justice. If the US were not in a position to benefit, they would not even bother to go so far. This comment is not to support the Chinese if they are in fact cheating.
n, Toronto, Canada
What would the US do to find itself at the top of gold medals…Maybe the Chinese should test Phelps for doping themselves. That might give us a shocker of results.
Andreas Andreou, Cyprus
As I mentioned earlier, swimmers — including Michael Phelps — are tested daily throughout the Games. Thanks for playing, Andreas.
So, following the above logic: if the second-place team had been from Romania, Russia, the UK, or another country, questions about the age of the Chinese gymnasts would have more merit because those countries are not sore losers like the U.S.?
Let me know if I’m missing anything here.
As I’ve said before, it’s convenient to point fingers at America and blame her for the world’s ills from so-called global warming to cultural decay rather than question one’s own way of dealing with these problems. So it’s easy to take the step and call us a bunch of babies for daring to question whether China cheated by altering the ages of its gymnasts. Another day, another “America sucks” rant from overseas.
But there’s more at stake here than just cheating. As my colleague Josh Strawn points out, “communism breeds paranoia and creates an almost pathological need to lie and propagandize.” And William R. Hawkins notes that the Olympics were “being used to bolster the regime’s legitimacy as it shows off its rising power.”
Of course, hosting the Olympic Games is and should be a source of pride for the host country. No one’s questioning that. But China’s attitude says less about good old-fashioned hometown pride and more about “behold our might.” Considering China’s enormous economic and, perhaps more importantly, military growth over the last few decades, if the Chinese feel confident in cheating and creating misconceptions in the Olympics in order to glorify themselves, what else will they do? Let’s not forget, this is a country notorious for rampant human rights violations and threats against Tibet and Taiwan, a reason why so many people were upset at its being chosen to host the 2008 Games in the first place.
This is also a nation that chooses prospective athletes at a very young age, takes them away from their families, and puts them into “camps” to prepare them for eventual Olympic and international glory. Such competition ceases to be healthy when it’s mandated by the state.
No one’s blaming the Chinese gymnasts themselves, by the way. Exactly what choice do they have in all of this?
If the IOC has even a shred of credibility left, it will conduct a serious investigation, not some sham that simply serves to appease those raising the hue and cry. And, if found in violation, stripping the athletes of their gold medals is not enough. May I suggest banning the Chinese gymnasts from competing in the next Olympics? How else would the Chinese get the message?