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Gymnastic governing body not to investigate age issue
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The world gymnastics governing body said on Saturday that it will not investigate age issue as there is no reason to do that.

Andre Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the Federation International do Gymnastique (IFG), said "the situation is quite clear. In the Sydney Olympic Games and following international competitions, we have controlled the age of athletes according to their passports. There is no reason for the IFG to take any action."

"At this moment, it is very clear that the IFG has no doubt about the age problem. We have done all we have to do according to our rules. We have no reason to talk about documents and will not make any investigation for the time being, as long as there is no true evidence on the table about the age issue," said Gueisbuhler at a press conference in the National Indoor Stadium.

The secretary-general stressed once again that he saw no reason for the IFG to go beyond the passports.

When asked about whether the IFG plans to introduce a new standard to prove athletes' age, the IFG officials said they will introduce gymnasts licenses next year based on passports of athletes. Athletes will have their licenses from the first time when they take part in international competitions.

"We all agree that wherever you are, you identify yourself with passports. We, for the time being, have no plan for the future to change that point. Passports will still be the official identification form and the licenses will be based on the passports," said Gueisbuhler.

The IFG official noted "our records are based on these passports. Only if passports are found different from the records we have, or different from the licenses in the future we have, we will be forced to take action against it. "

Gueisbuhler said the license issue has been under discussion for long. "We have been thinking of licenses for years. Actually the license we would like to use is like those used in other sports like volleyball. Some national federations also have licenses. That concept was not born yesterday," He added, "the licenses will be valid for two years."

The International media organizations including the New York Times and Agence France-Presse earlier raised questions about the age of Chinese Olympians He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan, saying they might not yet be 16, the minimum age for the Olympic eligibility.

The Chinese Gymnastic Association had said in a statement that He and Jiang had competed in a number of international gymnastics events, and that the FIG had checked their passports to make sure they are old enough for events such as the world championships, World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Earlier on Saturday, the FIG confirmed the age eligibility of all gymnasts competing in the Beijing Olympics.

"The FIG has received confirmation from the International Olympic Committee that all passports are valid for all gymnasts competing in the Beijing Olympic Games," FIG said in a statement in response to athletes age eligibility questions recently raised in the media, particularly those from the United States.

The governing body declared that stringent control measures had been taken at the time of athlete accreditation for all official FIG competitions.

"Further, all athlete ages for the Beijing Olympic Games are consistent with the FIG records for all past FIG competitions," it added.

The accepted proof of a gymnast's eligibility for competition is a valid passport issued by the country of residence. Minimum age for both men's and women's artistic gymnastics is 16 years by December 31 in the competition year.

The Olympic gymnastics competition started earlier on Saturday with women's team event expected to be a two-way battle between the hosts and the United States.

(Xinhua News Agency August 9, 2008)

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