Did the Chinese Cheat in the Olympics?

With the Chinese recently beating the United States for gold in women’s gymnastics, there have been some claims that China has cheated, using girls under the age of 16, which would be illegal in the Olympics.  Sports Illustrated reported here on the issue. 

Specifically there are some claims that He Kexin of the Chinese team is 14.  That, apparently, is the age given in an article by the China Daily newspaper earlier in the year. If true, the Chinese have cheated and should be disqualified, some say.

My take?  Well, I don’t condone cheating and I’d be really upset if you had to be under 16 to compete and an 18 year old was competing (think little league world series).  It’s not political.  I don’t think a 14 year old poses much of a threat to a 16 year old and the fact that some 16 year and older kids got beat by at least one 13 or 14 year old kid screams “sore loser.”  I think the United States team got beat, at least in this competition, by better gymnasts, at least in this event,  who had no physical competitive advantage.  (That still doesn’t justify cheating, though).  And if you think being just a little bit shorter than already petite girls is a competitive advantage, then you haven’t seen some of those girls miss the bars and fall on the uneven bars event because they couldn’t quite reach.  The United States lost and can blame themselves – they had plenty of opportunity and, though valiantly they tried, they were unable to pull out the win.

Update 8/22/08 8:00am CST.  There has been great discussion about all of the cheating allegations and the competitive advantage issue in the comments.  Please read them and the Further Review article here, the Hall of Shame or the IOC investigating links to see where I stand on the issue.

This original post was intended to be an opinion that the girls lost because they didn’t perform well and not because the Chinese beat them because they had a competitive advantage.  It was never meant to be an expose on or proving the cheating allegations nor a scientific/medical discussion on the competitve advantage enjoyed by underage gymnasts.  So before commenting to this post, please read the comments and links above for a fuller and more accurate picture of where I stand.  In short, I think there should be an investigation and I think underage gymnasts do generally have a competitve advantage over the older ones, and if the Chinese have cheated, it’s not fair to call the girls “sore losers”.  Thanks for reading.


26 responses to “Did the Chinese Cheat in the Olympics?

    USA are a bunch of sorelosers.

  2. Put the USA loss out of mind and consider gymnastics and why there is an age requirement to compete in the Olympics. You may think a 14 year-old would not be as good as those older than her, but in fact it is much like putting an 18 year-old into a little league game. The 18 year-old would have more strength, while the 14 year-old gymnast has more flexibility. In addition she has probably yet to hit puberty, which is another HUGE advantage. And as far as height goes…He Kexin is an inch taller than Shawn Johnson.

  3. If you think 13 and 14 year old gymnasts have no physical advantages over older gymnasts, you’re an idiot. The younger the gymnast is, the more flexible and fearless they are. With age comes the psychological fear of injury. Thirteen year olds don’t think about the future. That’s why the rule was put in place. Female gymnasts were wrecking their bodies by the time they were 16 because they would attempt dangerous maneuvers without concern for the possible physical consequences. Next time, before you give us “your take” perhaps you should do a little research so you don’t come across as being full of crap. =)

  4. Thanks for the comments. Points well taken Anonymous. I’m not sure how hitting puberty hurts, but if one is 14, there’s a good chance that she has hit puberty, given that many kids hit puberty at 11 or 12 and earlier (though in some gymnasts who may be restricted calorically, it’s possible for her to have delayed onset of puberty as compared to well fed athletes – I’m not accusing the Chinese of calorically restricting their athletes though). As far as flexibility, I don’t know that a 14 year old has more flexibility than a 16 year old since all the girls I’ve seen compete are extremely flexible – that’s why some (the 30+ lady competing) are able to continue to compete. Flexibility would vary from individual to individual and there are some 16 year olds that are more flexible than 14 year old.

    BTW, I love the USA, I watch gymnastics with my family and pull for the girls. I wish we would sweep all the events. I am not at all condoning cheating and if theyd did cheat, they should have their medals taken back, just like any other cheater previously. It just sounds like the girls were outperformed, that’s all. Just my opinion.

  5. Mug, thanks for your comments. I admit I haven’t thoroughly researched the gymnastics rules and why they put the age limit there and I may not know all of the competitive advantages and disadvantages. I think anyone can have an opinion – no one said it’s law. I think it’s more complex an issue though.

    There’s a good discussion here: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080813084656AAlVTTL

    There are plenty of advantages as one grows older and most people would expect that the 14 year old would only improve with age as opposed to worsen, as your comments would suggest.

    So maybe before accusing someone of being full of it, you might do a little research of your own. There is controversary, some very well informed people thinking they peak before 16, some saying not. Still not justifying cheating.

  6. I’m certainly not accusing you of being full of it. I simply stated that “your take” on it suggested as much, as it was simply an opinion not backed up by any facts. I’m well aware of the controversy surrounding gymnastics. The main point which most experts agree on is the “psychological” differences. While a 16 year old may be stronger and able to leap farther with physical strength, the 13 year old is likely to put more strength into the leap because she would have less fear of injuring herself. These same experts agree that the combination of physical ability and mental confidence suggests that a female gymnast will peak at about the age of 13 to 14 years old. Many of the coaches from other countries as well as the U.S. all stated that younger gymnasts tend to perform better due to being more “fearless” in the routines. The U.S. women’s gymastics team does not contain America’s best gymnasts. The best American gymnasts were unable to compete because they did not meet the age requirements, which is why this is such a “sore” subject.

    The worst of it is that this is not like other cheating in the past. In cases of blood doping or steroids, the government and olympic committee of the athlete’s country could deny any knowledge of the activities. If these girls are indeed underage, the only way they could have “cheated” in this fashion is for the Chinese government to issue them falsified passports and other official documents so they could compete. Chinese philosophy dictates that it would be the cruelest insult to question the honor of your host. Knowing this, they feel they can cheat and even if everyone knows, nobody will openly accuse them or it could be disatrous. If anyone did make such an accusation openly, the Chinese government could “save face” by closing the Olympics and cancelling all remaining events. If anything is done about this, it will have to wait until after the games are over.

  7. cliffordthedawg

    Thanks Mug, no offense taken then. Of course, “my take” is just that, my take, my opinion. I don’t think anywhere I implied that to be a professional conclusion. Anyway, those are great arguments that really address some of the cheating issues which I didn’t really address. My intention was not to address the physical advantages as the bulk of the story in the first place so I didn’t elaborate. I agree with a lot of what you said, particularly about the falsification of documents by the government

    Probably the biggest thing I’d question is that the 13 and 14 year olds are more fearless. That may be true, but as a doctor, I’ve seen many kids over the years and currently work in a young population. Personally, I feel that my younger teens are less fearless than the older teens and college kids, even though the older ones are supposed to be wiser. Older kids seem to be more daring and experiment more and take things further and to the limit. However, that may not hold for gymnastics specifically and I’m certainly no gymnastics expert.

    That whole issue of cheating, if they did, should be addressed and punished but that wasn’t the focus of my take. Individual denial is a whole different ballgame than the governmental falsification which, especially with kids, is horrible.

    My intention was to say the U.S. team lost because they made some mistakes, and on that night, the Chinese were superior in their performance. Do I think the Chinese gymnasts are better and would routinely beat them? No, I don’t. I don’t think the Chinese, even with a potential age advantage were better. They certainly weren’t in the individual all-arounds that saw the U.S. take gold and silver.

  8. I really enjoyed the dialog. One final thing. You may find this video from ABC News informative.

  9. cliffordthedawg

    Good report, it’s pretty ridiculous that the IOC is not going to investigate the whole matter given the “proof” that exists. I could just about guarantee you they’d investigate other countries. I do wish the U.S. girls would have been able to be flawless, but that’s how sports and life are.

  10. Maybe the rules should allow the younger girls to compete, but they don’t.

    It does not matter WHY the rules are in place. It doesn’t matter if it is a good rule or not. It does not matter if one agrees or disagrees with the rule. The only thing that matters is that the rules are in place. Until the rules are changed, everyone, should be required to follow them – no exceptions. Maybe Im just old and closed minded, but I think that anyone who disagrees with that position should be ashamed.

    IF its true that the Chinese culture is such that China cannot be criticized for fear that the games will be closed, then obviously the Chinese do not possess the moral fiber to make theirs an appropriate host country for the Olympics.

    If rules aren’t enforced consistently then the credibility of the games is eroded. It is the integrity of the games that should be foremost among the priorities of the IOC, not the stuffy, egos of Chinese strongmen. If the games were ended on those terms, it would provide the world with a great and lasting insight on the character of communist leaders of China, which in my view would be worth far more than Olympic gold.

    Accusing “sore losers” who follow the rules of being poor sports is wholly inappropriate. This year these rule violatins made a HUGE difference. If the chinese were made to follow the rules, the Chinese would have to field a different team, an eligible team, so the results might be different. It doesnt matter that these little chinese girls are good enough; they aren’t eligible – end of story.

    Botton line: China cheated. I suppose, looking back on Chinese history, we should expect nothing different from them.

    The overlooked victims in this discussion are the little Chinese girls themselves. They will, for the rest of their lives will have to carry the burden of knowing that their gold medals are tarnished. Maybe in a few years one of them will defect to the US, as so many athletes do, and spill the beans in a best selling book.

  11. Thanks for your comments. I agree with what you’ve said, I haven’t seen it expressed better.

    The original post, however poorly communicated, was meant to say that it seemed to me that the U.S. team didn’t perform up to their capability and had they done so, they would’ve won. I didn’t see the Chinese as really being that much better, if any – they seemed to have gotten some help from the judges.

    Having lost, people seemed to have been saying the girls lost because the Chinese team had a competitive advantage due to their younger age. Instead of saying we made some mistakes and were beaten, it was we lost because they cheated. Maybe they did, probably they did. Had the U.S. girls won, would there have been any demands for investigating the Chinese? I don’t know but probably not nearly as much. Is that right – to only investigate because you lost?

    I am in no way justifying the Chinese and have said in other comments that they should be investigated and if guilty, punished appropriately. I’ll be making a couple of posts today about that. However, if they didn’t, will people apologize for accusing them? Will people say we lost because on that night, they were superior? Will the medals still be tarnished?

    It always seems to be that the victims have no say. I agree, the Chinese girls, regardless of the age issue are the victims, because no matter the true ages, their country will always be seen as cheaters by many people.

  12. Pingback: Did the Chinese Cheat in the Olympics - After Further Review « Two Cookies a Day

  13. I happen to agree with your post. I think that it is in extremely poor taste that the Americans have been harping on the ages of the Chinese gymnasts. The Americans truly did not perform well. This is not a multiple chance thing, you get one chance to perform well at your event and if you screw it up that’s just too bad but at least have the decency to lose gracefully. And in this instance our girls didn’t perform. It’s sad but it doesn’t help that there are so many people whining about it.

    Also, there are no hard facts or figures stating that the Chinese girls are underage other than speculation about height and their features. As a person of Asian descent I will say that our features mature in a vastly different time-frame than those of European descent and crying about how these girls “look young” just irks me more than I express in words. Just as an anecdotal tale, when I turned 18, my mother took me to the grocery store to buy me a birthday cake there was a woman passing by who asked what the cake was for and my mother said I was having a birthday party and I was playfully hanging off the cart at the time because I happen to be short (and in fact still have a tendency to do so even though I’m in my 20s now). And the woman turns to me and asks, “oh how old are you turning, 13?” When I responded that I was going to be 18 and off to college she turned a rather amusing shade of red. For those of you who might question whether I hit puberty late in life, let me tell you I hit puberty at 11, it was the same as any other woman. To this day my features make me look several years younger than what “people” expect me to be and I continue to be carded when my friends can go into bars without any question.

  14. cliffordthedawg

    Thanks for the comments. I’ve always had a hard time just looking at a European descent kid and guessing the age, much less trying to so with an Asian, African, Pacific Islander, you have it. I saw an interview with an “expert” evaluating the age of the gymnasts based on their appearance alone. I couldn’t help but laugh when she started saying some of the things she said, chin size, ear size, etc.

  15. whereisthehonor

    The US as a whole is not whining about the age of the Chinese gymnasts. Sports commentators from other countries have remarked about the possibility that the gymnasts are too young based on reports from registrations at other events the athletes in question have been competing. There are women from all ethnic backgrounds that have a young look. I just want to know if the reports I have been reading stating that the gymnasts were too young to compete are true. I would feel this way no matter what country I came from. And maybe the judges should be more fair in the deductions for everyone involved.

  16. There’s no doubt the US team got “beat” in the events, not only by virtue of the Chinese team’s brilliance but our team’s mistakes. That is HARDLY the point.

    Games have these little things called RULES. Rules are in place in all sports for two reasons: 1) to ensure fair play, 2) to protect the players.

    China sending underage girls to these games violates both of these. First, smaller girls have an ADVANTAGE. They have a much higher strength-to-weight ratio. The Chinese team was 3 inches shorter and THIRTY POUNDS lighter, on average. That’s an enormous advantage; the same advantage Nadia Comaneche had at 14 when she scored perfect 10’s. You may not think that’s an advantage, but what the hell do YOU know? All of the expert commentators who earned medals in the sport say otherwise. Dominique Dawes and the US team may not be openly complaining, but they certainly KNOW they were cheated.

    After Comaneche, the IOC put in an age limit to PROTECT the gymnasts. Putting undeveloped bodies through the rigors necessary to achieve Gold is extremely damaging. There is a difference between athletic ability and HEALTH. These Chinese girls are obviously at an unhealthy level of body fat; essential body fat for a woman is 10-12 percent. Below that, their endocrine and nervous systems could begin to shut down.

    Many athletes in many sports have cheated and lied, individually. But what makes this different is that CHINA facilitated the cheating and lying with false identity documents.

    There’s not only growing evidence that China falsified the ages, but that they are SYSTEMATICALLY wiping the evidence off the internet:


    It is also obvious that the judges were undercounting Chinese errors. Professional gymnasts were watching the same events, counting all the balance checks…3, 4, 5…and their scores were near perfect! At one point it got so obvious that the head judge came down from the booth to the floor to ORDER the judges to revise their scores, her prerogative.

    Then there is the issue of workload. China has put up a concerted effort since they got the games to win these medals for national pride. To attain this level of skill, those anorexic girls had every aspect of their lives rigidly controlled. They weren’t athletes, they were MACHINES of the state. Our athletes had school, church, family and social lives.

    It is neither “sour grapes” nor being a “sore loser” to enforce the RULES of a competition. Notwithstanding your specific denial to the contrary, you ARE condoning cheating.

  17. That is an excellent analysis and thanks for taking the time to express it. I didn’t appreciate the competitive advantage prior to writing the post. Before being so harsh, maybe you should have read more in the comments and other posts, even the comments above your own comment.

    A couple of things, the original post was written before a lot of this story really developed and before even more of the ridiculous judging occured, so cut me a little slack.

    Second, the idea of the original post was not to even get into all of the cheating, the MACHINES and the social/family lives the girls lived, just to say that we didn’t perform well and lost, not because the Chinese had a competitive advantage.

    Third, if you haven’t read all of the comments or read the follow up post I did or the hall of shame, please do so. After learning more about it, though there’s still debate, that I’ve come to see the younger girls do appear to have a competitive advantage. You’ll find that I really do believe pretty much as you’ve written.

    Fourth, I did go on to say that, if the Chinese did cheat, that it was inappropriate of me to refer to the girls as sore losers, though I was really referring to the Americans, the “we” that says we lost.

    Fifth, as I’ve stated elsewhere on this site, the real victims are the little girls. The IOC owes it to the world, to the gymnasts and to the Chinese to further investigate this.

    Sixth, as you have said, I’ve also written how what’s really bad is the actions of the powers that are involved.

    Seventh, I AM NOT condoning cheating. I see where if you only read the first post, you would think that. I fail to see where you would continue to think that after reading the comments and other post.

    Thanks for the post. I’m in agreement with all you’ve said except the condoning cheating part.

  18. I agree with Mug also, you really need to do your research before you give your opinion.

    Your opinions are way off base along with the others here that have agreed with you.

    Study the facts. This has been discussed by many and fortunately you are in the minority with you lack of knowledge on this subject.

    It makes you seem uninformed considering you started this thread =)

  19. Go USA, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I wish you would have read more here on ths site. Evidently you haven’t read all of the comments in this thread, the dialogue with Mug or even my last comment just above yours.

    Nor, apparently, have you read here: https://twocookiesaday.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/olympics-committee-investigating-allegations-of-chinese-cheating/
    or here:
    or here: https://twocookiesaday.wordpress.com/2008/08/18/this-weeks-shame-award-goes-to-6/

    But to recap, had you “studied the facts” yourself, you would have found out that the post was not at all intended to be a discussion on the competitive advantage of underaged gymnasts or an informed expose uncovering evidence of Chinese cheating. It was an opinion about competing and losing because you didn’t perform well. It was just an opinion about that.

    You would also have seen that the post was written before there was any widespread knowledge/understanding by the audience at large of the alleged cheating and the subsequent evidence such as here: http://www.strydehax.blogspot.com (thanks R. Miller for the link) became known , and that the post was before all the questionable judging took place. In fact, the media are just now reporting on strydehax’s research.

    You would have seen where Mug and I agreed in the end and the information that he provided was useful in further addressing the competitive advantage issue (which wasn’t even the focus of the original post).

    Although I’m not in the minority (I’m pretty much of the opinion that the 14 year olds have a competitive advantage), but even if I were in the minority, just because someone’s in the minority doesn’t mean they’re wrong. There is a lot of evidence that supports the majority, but there are “experts” that agree with the minority. Are they wrong too because they disagree with you?

    That said, please read the above comments and links for a better understanding of where I stand. I completely agree with those who want an investigation, I completely agree with those who don’t want to see cheating mar the Olympics. I completely agree that the U.S. girls and other gymnasts deserve what is fair.

  20. People just don’t realize that Chinese people are little people. I’m Chinese myself and I’m 24 BUT look like an 18 year old! “Don’t judge the book by its cover”! I’m sorry but the US are just sore losers!

  21. AND Damn those chinese girls are HOT! I’m talking about the girls handing out metals!

  22. They chinese did the exact same thing in the Sydney Olympics 8 years ago, that is a proven fact, nothing was done to them for that, nothing will be done now. The IOC is already trying to bury this .

  23. Why is this an arguement whether USA got cheated or not? If they are underage they are not allowed to compete. It’s the rules but If nobody proves that they are underage we move on.

  24. Well, no argument with me. It’s cut and dry, hopefully someone with the IOC or FIG will get to the truth one way or the other, acknowledge it and do the right thing.

  25. I dated a Chinese girl once.
    Good times.

  26. mtvoesl tvwnmecoj qjsipl xxuwiiysyd vinetnhn nplzcsck iihfmgwrb cokyambg vabizfsn

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