LAUSANNE, Switzerland – China's Olympic gold medal gymnasts at the Beijing Games were old enough to compete but the team that won the bronze medal in Sydney eight years ago still faces questions, the international gymnastics federation said Wednesday.
The FIG closed the Beijing case after a 5 1/2-week investigation into the ages of the women's team.
"Originals of official documents received from the Chinese Gymnastics Association, specifically passports, identity cards and family booklets or Household Registers, confirm the ages of the athletes," the FIG said in a statement.
The FIG said it shared its conclusions with the International Olympic Committee, which requested the inquiry.
"It is considered that the case is now concluded," the federation said.
However, the FIG said it continues to investigate the ages of Chinese gymnasts who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, particularly Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun.
"The FIG does not consider the explanations and evidence provided to date in regards to these athletes as satisfactory," the federation said.
Doubts about the ages of China's current gymnasts swirled for months before the Beijing Olympics, with media reports and online records suggesting some girls could be as young as 14. Three days before the games ended, the IOC asked the FIG to look into the matter one last time.
The investigation was expanded after questions were raised about the 2000 team.
Dong got a Beijing Olympics credential with documents that suggest she was only 14 in 2000, said Andre Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the FIG. Her blog also indicates she was underage in Sydney.
Yang, who also won a bronze medal on the uneven bars in 2000, said in a June 2007 interview that aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 in Sydney. Gymnasts must turn 16 during the Olympic year to compete.
"It will probably still take awhile before we can unravel all the legal" matters, Gueisbuhler said. "We have the (statute of limitations), and you have applicable law is also a factor."
"We did not have another choice," Gueisbuhler said last week. "If we want to remain credible, then we have to look into things."
The FIG's announcement that it was closing the investigation on the 2008 team was hardly a surprise. China had insisted — heatedly and repeatedly — that all the girls were old enough to compete, and that it had the documents to prove it.
China provided passports, ID cards and family registers for He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan, Deng Linlin and Li Shanshan, all showing the girls were 16 or would turn 16 this year.
"We have received all we could possibly ask for," Gueisbuhler said. "All of them confirm the age that they should be, so what can we do?"
Underage gymnasts have been a problem since the 1980s, when the minimum age was raised from 14 to 15 to protect young athletes from serious injuries. The minimum age was raised to its current 16 in 1997.
North Korea was barred from the 1993 world championships after FIG officials discovered Kim Gwang Suk, the 1991 gold medalist on uneven bars, was listed as 15 for three years in a row. Romania admitted in 2002 that several gymnasts' ages had been falsified, including Olympic medalists Gina Gogean and Alexandra Marinescu.
Gueisbuhler said the documents Dong used for her Beijing credential would have made her too young for the Sydney Games. Dong was a national technical official in Beijing, working as the secretary on vault. She was not part of any judging panel.
"If that document is the correct one, that would suggest she was 14 years old at the Sydney Olympic Games," Gueisbuhler said.
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 AP last week, "I've left the gymnastics team."
"If the FIG wants to investigate this matter," she added, "I will provide every form of documentation."
The FIG also has a copy of Yang's 2007 interview, in which she seems to contradict her official birthdate. Yang's birthdate is listed as Dec. 2, 1984.
"At the time I was only 14," she said in the CCTV interview, done in Chinese. "I thought that if I failed this time, I'll do it again next time. There's still hope."
But Yang told the AP last week that she had misspoken, declining further comment.
"Everyone has misspoken before. On television shows, there are always slips of the tongue," she said, declining to comment further.
In August, the AP found registration lists previously posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Sport of China that showed He and Yang were too young to compete.
A Nov. 3 story by the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, suggested He was only 14.
Younger gymnasts are considered to have an advantage because they are more flexible and are likely to have an easier time doing the tough skills the sport requires. They also aren't as likely to have a history of injuries or fear of failure.
China blamed the discrepancies on Web sites and paperwork errors.
"Here have been allegations. The issue was that the Chinese authorities provided certificates and forms, and we have asked that these be checked," IOC president Jacques Rogge said Tuesday.
"We want clarity on both counts, of course," Rogge added, referring to the 2008 and 2000 squads.