Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why limit with age limits?

Members of China's gymnastics team.
Members of China's gymnastics team.

To be eligible for World or Olympic competition, gymnasts must turn 16 by the end of the 2008 calendar year.

Accusations of age falsification have swirled around the Chinese team and have intensified after news outlets found official documents stating alternate (and younger) birth dates for three athletes: He Kexin, Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan. All three of them are old enough according to their passports. The Chinese have been mum on the subject, as expected.

In 1991, a tiny North Korean, Kim Gwang-Suk, won the gold medal on uneven bars. Later, officials discovered that her birth date had been changed three times, meaning that her age stayed the same for three years. As a result, gymnastics' governing body banned North Korea from competing at the 1993 Worlds. More recently, some Romanian gymnasts have said that their ages were falsified as well.

NBC's Bela Karolyi has been surprisingly vocal on the issue. On Sunday, Karolyi lamented what he called "China's arrogance" for using girls he wasn't even sure were teenagers. According to Karolyi, if there are any questions about age, just eliminate the restrictions being broken.

But what do you think? Are age restrictions now irrelevant with the percieved government tampering? Would it be best to be done with them? Or, are they in place to protect those that need protecting? Go ahead and share your take by adding a comment.

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