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Chinese skaters face questions about age

CHICAGO (AP) ― China is facing new questions about the ages of some of its athletes after discrepancies were found in the birthdates of nine figure skaters.

According to a list of birthdates published on the Chinese Skating Association’s website and found by the Associated Press, the skaters violated the sport’s age limits by competing when they were either too young or too old. The birthdates on the federation’s websites differ from those listed on the athletes’ International Skating Union biographies.

Among the skaters whose eligibility is in question are Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, the 2006 Olympic pairs silver medalists, and Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the reigning junior world champions and China’s top up-and-coming pairs team.

The discovery comes less than a year after the IOC stripped China of its 2000 Olympic bronze medal in women’s team gymnastics for using an underage girl. That violation was uncovered during an investigation into age fraud by China’s team that won the gold medal at the Beijing Games. The 2008 team later was cleared after Chinese officials provided original passports, ID cards and family registers showing all the gymnasts were old enough to compete.

According to ISU rules, skaters must be 15 by the preceding July 1 to compete at an Olympics or senior world championships, and 14 for other senior-level international competitions, such as the Grand Prix final. Junior skaters must be at least 13 the previous July 1 but cannot have turned 19 (singles) or 21 (pairs and ice dancers).

According to the records found by the AP on the federation website, Zhang Dan was born Oct. 4, 1987, meaning she would have been only 14 when she and Zhang Hao ― no relation ― competed at the 2002 Olympics and world championships. The Zhangs were 11th in Salt Lake City and ninth at worlds.

Zhang Hao, meanwhile, was born on Feb. 6, 1982, according to his birthdate on the federation website. That would have made him too old to compete at the 2003 junior world championships, which they won.

The Zhangs went on to win the silver medal at the Turin Games and silvers at the 2006, 2008 and 2009 world championships.
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