Chinese authorities investigating ages of '00 Olympic gymnasts

BEIJING -- International gymnastics officials aren't the only ones who want more information on two members of China's 2000 Olympic team.

The Chinese Gymnastics Association is doing its own investigation into the ages of Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun, spokeswoman Zhou Qiurui said Tuesday. New information suggests the two could have been as young as 14 at the Sydney Olympics, where China won the bronze medal.

Gymnasts have to be 16 during the Olympic year to compete.

Zhou declined further comment and referred questions to another member of the association, who was not available. But, Zhou added, the association relies on local authorities for information about its athletes.

"The local authorities provided us with the athletes' profiles, including age. Our job was only to select the best among them," she said. "We are not the government and don't have any power. We can only coordinate."

Questions about Dong and Yang's ages surfaced during an investigation into China's gold medal squad from the Beijing Olympics. Though the International Gymnastics Federation cleared the 2008 squad last week, it said it still had questions about Dong and Yang and "does not consider the explanations and evidence provided to date in regards to these athletes as satisfactory."

Dong's accreditation information for the Beijing Olympics, where she worked as a national technical official, listed her birthday as Jan. 23, 1986. That would have made her 14 in Sydney -- too young to compete. Her birth date in the FIG database is listed as Jan. 20, 1983.

Dong's blog also says 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, telling The Associated Press, "I've left the gymnastics team."

Yang, who also won a bronze medal on uneven bars in Sydney, said in a June 2007 interview that aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 in Sydney. She later told the AP that she had misspoken, declining further comment.

Repeated calls to Dong and Yang's cell phones have gone unanswered.