Apr 28, 2010 11:57 AM by Melissa Canone
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - China was stripped of a
bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics on Wednesday for
fielding an underage gymnast, with that women's team medal now
going to the United States.
The International Olympic Committee acted after investigations
by the sport's governing body determined that Dong Fangxiao was
only 14 at the 2000 Games. Gymnasts must turn 16 during the Olympic
year to be eligible.
"I'm really just proud to know that justice prevailed," said
Dominique Dawes, a member of the U.S. squad in 2000. "My teammates
are very well-deserving of the bronze medal, and I'm sure each and
every one of us will be thrilled. We will cherish it."
Dong's results from Sydney were nullified in February by the
International Gymnastics Federation. Because her scores contributed
to China winning the team bronze, the FIG recommended that the IOC
take the medal back.
As expected, the IOC executive board upheld the request and
formally stripped the medal on the first day of a two-day meeting
The U.S. women, who had been fourth, move up to the bronze.
The IOC said Dong was also stripped of her sixth-place result in
the individual floor exercises and seventh place in the vault.
Calls to the Chinese Gymnastics Association and the media
officers for the Chinese gymnastics team went unanswered Wednesday.
Dong now lives in New Zealand with her husband.
The IOC ordered China's national Olympic committee to return the
team medals "as soon as possible" so they can be reallocated to
the U.S. team.
"I never imagined in all my years of gymnastics that a decade
following one of my Olympic Games I'd actually get a medal possibly
shipped to me in the mail," said Dawes, who will now have one gold
and three bronzes from the 1992, 1996 and 2000 games.
The IOC also told the Chinese to "ensure, by all means, that
the athletes and officials of its delegation comply with all rules
and regulations (of the international federation) particularly with
regard to age limits."
"Respecting the minimum age of our gymnasts remains a priority
and I am committed to safeguarding the health of our athletes,"
FIG president Bruno Grandi said in a statement.
Questions about Dong's eligibility arose during the FIG's
investigation into the ages of China's team that won the gold medal
at the 2008 Beijing Games. Media reports and Internet records
suggested some of the girls on that team could have been as young
The FIG cleared the Beijing Games gymnasts in October 2008 after
Chinese officials provided original passports, ID cards and family
registers showing all of the gymnasts were old enough to compete.
But the FIG said it wasn't satisfied with "the explanations and
evidence provided to date" for Dong and a second gymnast, Yang
Dong's accreditation information for the Beijing Olympics, where
she worked as a national technical official, listed her birthday as
Jan. 23, 1986. That would have made her 14 in Sydney - too young to
compete. Her birth date in the FIG database is listed as Jan. 20,
Dong's blog also said she was born in the Year of the Ox in the
Chinese zodiac, which dates from Feb. 20, 1985, to Feb. 8, 1986.
FIG investigators didn't find sufficient evidence to prove Yang,
who also won a bronze medal on uneven bars in 2000, was underage.
She received a warning from the FIG.
"We are extremely grateful that the IOC and the FIG have taken
such a thorough look at the issues that were raised in Beijing,"
said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "It serves the best
interests of sports to make sure there's always a fair field of
The bronze medal salvages what had been a disappointing Olympics
for the U.S. women. The squad - Dawes, Amy Chow, Jamie Dantzscher,
Kristin Maloney, Elise Ray and Tasha Schwikert - left Sydney
empty-handed, the only time since 1976 the American women had
failed to win a single Olympic medal. The U.S. boycotted the 1980