- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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.

There is no better platform than the Olympics to deliver this uplifting message, what with the eyes of the world affixed to the running, jumping and releasing of the white doves.

An impressive medal count by China would show the world that its two-cent-an-hour wage earners are living large and that it finally has overcome its psychologically crippling loss in the Opium Wars.

China has been under suspicion since the Barcelona Games in 1992, when its women’s swim team looked as questionable as a male in beard cover and sparked howls of protest from America’s female swimmers.

Their doubts eventually were confirmed in the Asian Games 1994, when 11 members of China’s swim team tested positive for dihydrotestosterone. More than 40 of China’s swimmers have failed drug tests since 1990, a rate of cheating that no other country comes close to matching.

That fuels the notion that doping is systematic in China in the fashion of the failed East German state, whose government-sponsored, pill-popping practices became known after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The prospect of China possibly enlisting two underage gymnasts to improve its gold-medal haul goes with a competition that discriminates against ordinary-sized females. Women’s gymnastics celebrates the tiny and the young, the tinier and younger the better.

In 2002, four Romanian female gymnasts, three of whom were Olympic medalists, revealed how they were provided with phony birth dates on their passports that allowed them to circumvent the minimum-age requirement in senior-level competitions.

That is the Olympic spirit.



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