Tom Knott: An age of liars, cheaters in China

So at least two of China’s female gymnasts are believed to be just out of diapers and too young to compete in the Beijing Games.

Chinese officials, of course, have produced the necessary paperwork that shows the two tots are 16 years old, the minimum age to compete in the Olympics, as mandated by the International Gymnastics Federation in 1997.

This possible doctoring of ages does not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with China’s desire to be the globe’s dominant nation of the 21st century.

That dominance could start in Beijing next month, when the Chinese are in a favorable position to earn more gold medals than the U.S.

They will have the home-continent advantage, plus a government that has dumped billions in sports development.

That advantage could be especially pronounced in a sport that usually hires judges who wear Coke-bottle glasses and wallow in subjectivity.

The U.S.-China rivalry in women’s gymnastics has been stoked by the razor-thin margin between the two. The U.S. women won the team title from China by less than a point last year after losing to China by an even slimmer margin the previous year.

Two precocious pixies with questionable birth records could tip the balance in China’s favor.

The USOC is all too familiar with the institutional corruptness of totalitarian regimes, dating to its Olympic showdowns with the old Soviet Union and East Germany a generation ago.

The East German females in particular turned out to be so many lab rats, scientifically sacrificed at the altar of the gold medal count in order to express the glory of the state.

The difference between then and now is that both the Soviet Union and East Germany were genuine enemies of the U.S., while China, not exactly our bosom buddy, is our second-largest trading partner.

Another difference is that the U.S. and China veer in their sports interests, the Chinese particularly adept at table tennis and badminton.

The only time Americans pick up a badminton racket is if they become intoxicated while holding a backyard barbecue.

The U.S. has not produced a world-class performer in table tennis since Forrest Gump, who is on the short list of vice-presidential candidates of both Barack Obama and John McCain.

Predictably enough, the Chinese government sees the Beijing Games as an opportunity to tell the world that it has arrived, that it is the real deal and that the Dalai Lama has cooties.

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