IOC orders probe over He's age

BEIJING Fri Aug 22, 2008 3:45am BST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee has asked the International Gymnastics Federation to investigate claims that Chinese double gold medallist He Kexin is younger than the eligible age to compete in the Games.

He, registered at the Beijing Olympics as 16, won team gold and a gold on the asymmetric bars. She was registered as having been born on January 1, 1992. Gymnasts must turn 16 in the year of the Games to be allowed to compete.

"Given that there have been some discrepancies regarding her age that have come to light, we have asked the FIG to look into this matter," an IOC official told Reuters.

"It is because of these discrepancies that we have asked for this investigation to start."

FIG spokesman Philippe Silacci declined to comment, but a statement earlier this month from the governing body said strict measures were taken when sorting out accreditation and that the IOC had confirmed all gymnasts' passports had been valid.

He's age has been under scrutiny since the start of the Games and various media have reported she had competed in past events under a different birthdate.

A U.S. computer expert had said in emails to the media on Thursday he had uncovered Chinese state documents that proved He was born in 1994 and not 1992.

The caption on a photograph published by Chinese state news agency Xinhua last year referred to "13-year-old He Kexin".

He, who pipped American Nastia Liukin under the tiebreak rule to snatch the Olympic asymmetric bars title, has repeatedly faced questions over her age at news conferences.

Each time she has replied: "My real age is 16. I don't care what other people say."

As well as He, others who have come under scrutiny in American media for their age are her team mates Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin. They were not named by the IOC in its call for an investigation.

China have had their most successful showing in the gymnastics at an Olympics, winning nine gold medals out of the 14 up for grabs.

(Additional reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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