`Pained` China accepts Sydney medal loss

Beijing: China was `pained` by the loss of a women`s gymnastics team bronze medal from the Sydney Olympics but respected the decision to withdraw it after team member Dong Fangxiao was adjudged to have lied about her age.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) asked for the medal to be returned on Wednesday after an International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) probe into Dong`s age concluded she had been younger than the minimum age requirement of 16 in 2000.

"The Chinese Gymnastics Association respects the decision of IOC and will actively cooperate with the IOC to deal with this issue according to relevant regulations and requirements," a spokesman told reporters.

"We feel deeply pained by it. We will take it as a lesson to learn, and furthermore will comprehensively intensify the all round management over the athletes to firmly prevent similar things happening."

In a separate statement, the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) wholeheartedly endorsed the decision.

"The COC requires Chinese sports associations to regulate and intensify their education on rules, to take this case as a lesson to learn and resolutely prevent similar cases from happening."

Dong registered different ages at Sydney and the 2008 Beijing Games, where she served as a technical official. Her five team mates -- Yang Yun, Liu Xuan, Ling Jie, Huang Mandan, Kui Yuanyuan -- will also lose their medals.

The CGA also suggested that frequent changes to the FIG`s age eligibility rules had contributed to the problem.

"The FIG continuously changes the rule of age limit, which requires us to update the information in time and keep strict monitoring and careful supervision. Any carelessness would cause problems," said the CGA spokesman.

Suspicions of age faking have dogged Chinese sport for years.

The FIG also investigated Yang, who also won a bronze in the uneven bars in Sydney, but found there was insufficient evidence to prove age fraud and she was let off with a warning.

The case against Yang, the wife of China`s three-time Olympic champion Yang Wei, was triggered when she admitted on Chinese television before the Beijing Games that she had been 14 when she competed at Sydney.

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 medallist.

He was subsequently declared eligible by the FIG two months after she and her team mates won China`s first ever Olympic team gold in women`s gymnastics.

Bureau Report