China stripped of Sydney gymnastics bronze, U.S. gets medals

By Karolos Grohmann

DUBAI (Reuters) - China have been stripped of their women's gymnastics team bronze medal from the Sydney 2000 Olympics after one of the athletes falsified her age, the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday.

An International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) probe had found in February that Dong Fangxiao was younger than the minimum age requirement of 16 after registering different ages at Sydney and the Beijing Games eight years later.

"The medal and diplomas of Dong Fangxiao are withdrawn and reallocated accordingly," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters after an IOC Executive Board meeting.

The United States, fourth-place finishers in Sydney, are now upgraded to third place and will be awarded the bronze medal.

"U.S.A. Gymnastics is grateful that the FIG and IOC took the time to thoroughly review and address this issue that was first raised at the Beijing Olympics," said Steve Penny, president of U.S.A. Gymnastics.

"Every athlete dreams about winning an Olympic medal. In 2000, our athletes and coaches worked tirelessly leading up to the Olympics and this recognition will certainly have great meaning."

Dong also finished sixth in the individual floor exercises and seventh in the individual vault.

The IOC ordered the Chinese Olympic Committee to return the medal and her diplomas so they can be re-awarded and told the committee it must ensure rules regarding age-limits are strictly kept.

Suspicions of age faking have dogged Chinese sport for years.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the FIG was ordered by the IOC to investigate the age of China's He Kexin, women's team and uneven bars gold medalist and several team mates, who were all declared eligible.

As a result of that controversy, however, the FIG introduced a system where all gymnasts taking part in any major event must apply for a license.

Dong registered a January 20, 1983 birth date in Sydney, but when accredited to act as an official in the vault at the 2008 Beijing Games, she declared her birth date as January 23, 1986.

That would have made her 14 and ineligible to compete in Sydney.

Dong will also have her results at the 1999 artistic gymnastics world championships in Tianjin canceled, along with those obtained at the FIG World Cup Series from 1999 to 2000 and at the 2000 artistic gymnastics world cup final in Glasgow.

(Additional reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Ed Osmond)