BEIJING, March 16 – A government investigation in southern China has shown that thousands of athletes there are likely to have faked their ages in an effort to gain an advantage over their rivals.
Bone tests of nearly 13,000 athletes found that over 2,000 were likely older than their registered age, according to the Sports Bureau of Guangdong Province, which carried out the probe.
The tests were carried out on athletes registered at provincial sports academies with most youths in their teens, it said in a report posted on its website last week.
Some of the athletes were up to seven years older than their registered ages, but most only differed by a year or two, said the report, which listed the names and disciplines of all those tested.
"We must ensure that those athletes faking their ages can not find any way to take advantage (in competition)," local press quoted bureau officials as saying.
"Based on the bone X-ray examinations, we will review all the results of youth sports competition in 2008."
Accusations of age faking have been made repeatedly against Chinese athletes in recent years, most prominently with the nation’s gold-medal winning gymnastic team at the Beijing Olympics in August.
Some of the gymnasts were alleged to have been listed as older than their actual age so they could circumvent a rule banning competitors younger than 16.
However the International Gymnasts Federation, the sport’s governing body, cleared them of any wrongdoing.
In December last year, the Chinese Basketball Association said it had discovered 36 players with false ages.
New Jersey Nets forward Yi Jianlian, who is from Guangdong province, is officially listed as being 21 years old, but local press reports late last year said his real age was 24.
The investigation into the 13,000 athletes came as Guangdong prepared for the 2010 Asian Games.
The province will this year also host the four-yearly China National Sports Games. In 2011, the World University Games will be held in Shenzhen, a major city in Guangdong that borders Hong Kong.