Thursday, 12 March 2009

Age-Old Problem

After the furore at the 2008 Olympics caused by suspicions that Chinese athletes were artificially inflating their years in order to beat minimum age requirements, it seems that the problem is heavily ingrained in Chinese sports. This time though, x-rays analysis by the sports ministry in Guangdong has found that a staggering 20 percent of youth athletes tested were older than they claimed – some by up to seven years!

Of course, the Olympic athletes in question were exonerated by an independent investigation. And it is also clear that age-fakery is just one of many problems facing sport worldwide. With drug abuse rife in athletics across the globe, this post should not be seen as portraying Chinese sports as worse than anyone else. Indeed, in the run-up to the Asian Games in Guangzhou next year, the authorities must be applauded for such attention to detail in, as they put it, making "sure fakers have no advantage."

However, with the Chinese Basketball Association discovering last year that some 26 players just from the top-flight league had misrepresented their ages, the problem does seem to be endemic, and I suspect the rumblings over Beijing 2008 will continue. Particularly since, as has been pointed out, in an authoritarian country with such strict control over official paperwork, falsification of documentation comes pretty easily. Add that to reports from individual members of the independent age-verification investigation team, stating their serious reservations about the exoneration, and one has to wonder how fair the record Chinese medal haul was.

Controversial? Maybe, but as I have already pointed out, the Chinese (if there is substance to these allegations) won' t have been the first to cheat at the Olympics, and you can be sure they won't be the last.