just curious….

August 25th, 2008

Y’know, something about this whole “underage” gymnast scandal had me wondering. For one thing, having seen some of the female gymnastics competiton, I noticed that it’s by no means only the Chinese, or even only the East Asian gymnasts who look like they should be in primary school- let’s please not forget that the training regimes for modern gymnastics are known to wreak merry havoc with the development processes of young bodies. I know there is evidence to suggest that some of the Chinese gymnasts are underage, but there is also evidence that they are of age, and to my mind this case has not yet been proven either way. I do think the media should be investigating in the apparent absence of appropriate action by the sport’s governing body, but, and there is a very big



The only difference between trial by media and the Salem witch hunts is that trial by media tends to be marginally less fatal for its victims. Just like the Salem witch hunts, trial by media proves nothing and has no positive outcome.

And I can’t help but get the impression that most of the pressure for an “investigation” is coming from America, and there seems to be a certain note of sour grapes to it. This impression is reinforced by this article:

World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) director general David Howman says the Americans seemingly building a doping case against Usain Bolt should look at themselves first.


“Sometimes these doubts are cast but I would suggest some Americans could look at themselves first. They had cheats in 2000 [Marion Jones] and cheats in 2004 so they think no one wins without cheating.

“Why is the emphasis on that fellow and not, for example, on [eight gold medal winner] Michael Phelps? Both those guys are just freakish athletes.”

Now I don’t mean to be unfair to America. Most of the American athletes I saw on TV this Olympics conducted themselves superbly, and so far as I saw, none disgraced themselves or their country. And I also want to say that if there is cheating to be uncovered, it should be uncovered and appropriately punished. But still, in the accusations against the Chinese gymnasts and the innuendo apparently being cast on Bolt there is a whiff of something ugly that has no place in sport.


25 Responses to “just curious….”

  1. Hang Says:

    Poor Bolt and Chinese gymnasts. Maybe they should have lost to American athletes to prove that they are innocent. Ha, ha …

  2. wangbo Says:

    Ha, yeah, maybe.

  3. Micah Sittig Says:

    Aw, come on.

    “Anybody can say whatever they want, but I know I’m clean,” Phelps said. “People can question it all they want, but the facts are the facts. I have the results to prove it.”

    He is taking part in “Project Believe,” a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency volunteer initiative where athletes provide additional testing that is more frequent and more sophisticated than the usual regime of tests.

    The Chinese are being defensive and 被动 about this underage business, and it doesn’t take a master psychologist to draw deductions from that. Combined with the online evidence that has surfaced so far, it certainly calls for further investigation. Nobody is saying (or should be saying) THEYDUNNIT. But there is definitely enough clues to be suspicious that something did happen (like falsification of passports, national IDs).

  4. Dan Says:

    I support the theory that Bolt is a freak of nature. His performances were the two moments I most enjoyed the games.

  5. wangbo Says:

    Micah, you’re right, I just strongly dislike the trial by media aspect this whole issue has taken. A proper investigation by a properly constituted body is what we need. And actually, I’d forgotten that some had seemed to cast aspersions on Phelps, so thanks for the reminder.

    Dan, Bolt and Phelps. But yes, I loved Bolt and his celebrations. Classic.

  6. Matt Schiavenza Says:

    There’s definitely something fishy about the gymnasts, of course, as having taught 16-year old Chinese kids before gave a pretty decent indication of what they look like. Then again, none of my students endured the years of physical training that typically causes arrested development in teenage gymnasts. Recall the ’96 games when Kerri Strug became America’s sweetheart- she didn’t look a hell of a lot older than the Chinese girls, but what do I know?

    The uproar though from the West derives from tales of Communist “sports machines”, a concept that originated with the questionably feminine East German swimmers of yesteryear. Believing that one’s opponents are somehow less than fair and human makes one feel better about losing, as if all Western gymnasts were discovered in some farm in the middle of nowhere doing the pommel horse with perfect technique.

  7. MY Says:

    Most updated Gold Medal List:

    China 50
    USA 37
    Germany 17
    Jamaica 5

  8. wangbo Says:

    But Matt, I thought that’s how America found all its athletes- except Phelps, of course, who was fished out of Chesapeake Bay.

    MY, I thought China got 51 in the end, or did I miss something?

  9. Jeffrey in New York Says:

    Thanks to China for putting on a great Olympic Games. It was a smooth operation and Zhang Yimou, whose films I began following years ago, put together amazing opening and closing ceremonies.

    There were so many great athletic performances from people from all over the world. Did you see the last inning of the South Korea and Cuba baseball game? The South Koreans were in deep shite, bases loaded, when they performed a masterful double-play under intense pressure to end the inning, defeat Cuba, and claim the gold medal. Did you see Rebecca Adlington swim? She picked up gold medals for GB, their first in several decades. Did you see Elena Isinbaeva break the world record (again) in the pole vault? Did you see Constatina Tomescu win the women’s marathon? She took the lead and forced the pace and wagered everything on being able to hold it together until the end of the race. It was gutsy move, one that brought her the gold medal.

    As for the Americans, we had a very good Olympics, ranked #1 in both swimming and track and field and #2 in gymnastics, the three disciplines being the traditional heart of the Summer Olympics. Our team sports were clearly dominant; there’s no other word to use:

    Men’s basketball: gold
    Women’s basketball: gold

    Men’s volleyball: gold
    Women’s volleyball: silver

    Men’s beach volleyball: gold
    Women’s beach volleyball: gold

    Women’s soccer: gold

    Men’s water polo: silver

    Women’s softball: silver

    And many individual Americans stood on top of the podium and listened to our national anthem being played in Beijing. I’ll mention just two here: Bryan Clay, winner of the decathalon (traditionally considered the all-round best athlete in track and field), and Nastia Liukin, gold medalist for all-around female gymnast.

    China also had a fantastic Olympic Games. They wanted to claim as many gold medals as possible and they accomplished their task. Their men’s gymnastics team was the best by far. They were dominant in diving. But by looking at the majority of their medals coming from badminton, ping pong, and trampolin, their accomplishments do not measure up, in my opinion, to those of the United States. Did the Chinese win even one gold in team sports? Can you claim to have won the Olympics when you didn’t win a single track and field gold medal? I don’t think so. Track and field is the foundation of the Summer Olympics.

    Like the old Soviet Union, the Chinese will continue to churn out many Olympic medalists, using their state-sponsored athletic program that removes children from their families at a young age to further the glory of China (and the CCP). Shawn Johnson’s parents, on the other hand, had to mortgage their house to pay for her training in gymnastics. Her trainer, Liang Chow, a Chinese-American living in Des Moines, Iowa, owner of his own gymnastics school, guided her to a gold medal. I’m not saying which system is better. They both fit their particular cultures, one controlled by the state, the other by individual initiative.

    Any comments?

  10. wangbo Says:

    Sorry, Jeffrey, I didn’t see any American dominance, not even in track and field or swimming. Aussie was too strong for you to claim the pool, Jamaica kicked arse in the sprinting, East Africa in long distance running, Isinbaeva in women’s pole vault and that Aussie guy in men’s, and nobody even came close to taking the women’s shotput gold from New Zealand’s Valerie Vili. And Liu Xiang pulling out of the 110m hurdles meant a very easy gold for that Cuban guy. And what happened to the American relay teams? And where were the American cyclists? The road was all Europe all the way, and the Brits cleaned up on the track. Or what about rowing, canoe/kayak, and sailing? Weightlifting?

    No, what I see in your comment is that old American habit of insisting on counting differently from the rest of the world so that America still comes out on top.

  11. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    Sorry, Jeffrey, I didn’t see any American dominance, not even in track and field or swimming.

    The USA won the most medals (including gold) in both SWIMMING and TRACK AND FIELD. Have you actually looked at any of the stats? Don’t make a fool of yourself on your own blog. That’s kind of stupid, don’t you think? The Aussies, as they themselves will tell you, did not perform up to their usual standards in this Olympics (not having the Thorpedo didn’t help). Here are the swimming stats for US and Australia:

    US: 12(G)/9(S)/10(B): total: 31
    AUS: 6(G)/6(S)/8(B): total: 20

    You wrote: “Aussie was too strong for you to claim the pool.”

    Riiiiiiiight. We had TWELVE GOLDS to their SIX. Yep, they were really too strong for us.

    What do you do for a living? Please don’t tell me that it has anything to do with numbers.

    Our relay teams? There’s no question that the 4 by 100 women’s and men’s team screwed up royally (not to mention Matt Emmons, who decided that choking in only one Olympics wasn’t enough). But both the women’s and men’s 4 by 400 relay teams won gold medals. We also swept gold-silver-bronze medals in both the 400 hurdles and the 400.

    Brits on the cyling track? C’mon, is that even a sport?

    Rowing? Our team won gold in the women’s eight. Jeezus, did you watch ANY of the competitions?

    Wangbo, you’ll have to bring your A-game if you want to tangle with me (and that’s means you’ll actually have to do a little research).

    Let the games begin.

  12. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    One more salvo (and you’re already taking on way too much water).

    Since the beginning of the Olympics, the USA has won:

    Gold: 897
    Silver: 693.5
    Bronze: 606.5
    TOTAL: 2197

    The closest country to this tally is the old Soviet Union/Unified team with 1112 total medals.

    We have TWICE as many medals our closest rival (and they no longer exist as a functioning entity).

    That’s dominance.

    Even your female Kiwi shot-putter would have to accept my claim once she saw these numbers.

    Heh heh.

  13. JP Says:

    Wow…… so impressed by Jeffrey. It’ll be extremely interesting to see a “friendly communication” between Jeffrey and Chinese Feiqing. Can’ wait! :D

  14. wangbo Says:

    Wow, Jeffrey, thump that chest a little harder and shout louder, and you’ll definitely win. The only thing I have to say about your numbers is: 12 golds in the pool, but how many came from Phelps? And had Thorpe been present?

    And dismissing an entire sport because some other country dominated? Track cycling is a sport, one far more highly developed than your swimming or track and field. Take your own advice and do some research.

    And if my Kiwi shotputter is so irrelevant, why bother mentioning your womens’ rowing eight? So America got one gold in rowing…. Wow.

    But it’s not about that, it’s not about number of golds or total medals (and only America counts total medals because that guarantees America no.1 every time). If America really was so dominant, then we would’ve been seeing the American flag and hearing the American national anthem so much we’d all have turned off the Olympics. I believe some in the American media have said that there were three Olympics: The Chinese, the American, and the rest of the world. If we combine them and see the Olympics as a whole, then America did well, but it really was just one of several very strong countries.

  15. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    Track cycling is more “developed” than swimming and track and field? Huh? Please explain. Have you ever heard of people enthusing about scoring front-row seats to a track cycling event? Track cycling?! Phew. Please, Chris, let’s keep it real. Listen, I’ll grant you that Hoy was an animal on the track, but it’s a boring event.

    If we combine them and see the Olympics as a whole, then America did well, but it really was just one of several very strong countries.

    Hey, I’m fine with this. Recall that my first comment began with recounting all of the fantastic medals won by athletes from other countries, NOT the US.

    I never said the Kiwi shot-putter was irrelevant — that’s a slanderous paraphrase, my friend. I simply said that if she were shown that, since the beginning of the Olympic Games, the US had won (before Beijing) 897 gold medals and 2,197 total medals — far, far more than any other country — she would have to agree with my claim of overall dominance in the history of the Olympic Games. By the way, if we include the Winter Olympics, we’re even more dominant. I’ll post the numbers, if you wish.

    Well, Thorpe was present in 2004 and Phelps won SIX golds while giving up his place on a relay so his teammate could get a gold in that competition. Thorpe today is no longer a competitive swimmer, so it might have been embarrassing for him to pull his distended belly through the waters of the Cube in Old Peking.

  16. Matt Schiavenza Says:

    Please stop. You’re embarrassing me and the rest of the 300 million of us.

    Look, I’m American. I cheered for American athletes during the games and was pleased when they won. Yet I didn’t feel the need to dismiss the exploits of all the other athletes just because I don’t find their sports very interesting. I find your attitude emblematic of the philistine sportswriters in our fair country who disparage soccer just because we aren’t very good at it.

    I don’t see why it’s so difficult to be proud of American athletes while simultaneously recognizing the exploits and talents of everyone else.

  17. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    Hey, let’s change gears. Back in the early 90s I met a group originally from Christchurch called Bailter Space (Alister Parker, John Halvorsen, and Brent McLachlan). Really nice guys and very good musicians. They played at a rooftop party of mine when I was living on the Lower East Side. Anyway, here are a couple Youtube clips of their music that you might enjoy (or maybe not):

    Bailter Space: Splat
    Bailter Space: X

    Before Bailter Space, these three dudes from Christchurch were The Gordons, recording for Flying Nun Records, a NZ label which you may be familiar with. Anyway, here’s a video clip of The Gordons performing in 1980:
    The Gordons: Adults and Children


  18. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    Huh? Did you read my comments? Right up front I talked about how much I enjoyed watching the South Korean baseball team win a gold in the last inning, how Tomescu won the marathon by running out front and challenging the other runners to try to catch her, and how much I liked watching Rebecca Adlington win gold medals in swimming for GB. So take your sanctimonious air and shove it. If you can’t see the humor in my writing, then you need to lighten up a bit, sir. I’m obviously playing the uber-patriotic American for a little fun. Jeezus.


    Sorry, those links above to The Gordons and Bailter Space don’t work because your comments page doesn’t allow http addresses, it seems. Is there a way to add live good links here?

  19. wangbo Says:

    Jeffrey, at least we can agree on music. Terribly sorry to disappoint you, though, but I would pay for front-row seats to track cycling, if my wife allowed that kind of expenditure.

    Not sure what’s going on with the links, I’ll see what I can do to fix it up.

  20. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    Hey, thanks. I just checked and all three links work now. “Adults and Children” by The Gordons rocks hard, doesn’t it?

    Okay, I promise that in 2012 I’m going to watch more track cycling. Maybe it will grow on me.

  21. Jeffrey in New York Says:


    Oh, and sorry if I’ve been playing the obnoxious arse too hard. I didn’t think so, but I may have amped my persona a bit beyond acceptable limits for this blog. Again, if so, accept my apologies.

  22. wangbo Says:

    Jeffrey, if you see the fascination in track cycling, cool, but don’t stress it. I’ll be the first to admit that as soon as I saw baseball or softball on TV I quickly flipped through to something more interesting- except for one game when I think it was China getting a thorough arse-kicking- that had some kind of morbid fascination to it, like watching a car crash in slow motion- I generally do the same for cricket, too. And the one and only time I enjoyed American Football I had a bunch of Americans with me to explain what the hell was going on and why it was all so important and fascinating.

    Glad the links work. I’m not sure how they got buggered up, but if they’re good now, doesn’t matter. Yeah, the Gordons rock.

  23. wangbo Says:

    Jeffrey, if you’d crossed the line your comments would’ve been deleted. You’re alright.

  24. Jay Says:

    The Western (not just American as you say) media had to pursue this story because the Chinese Federation and the IOC didn’t. It’s too damn easy to blame the Americans for sour grapes don’t you think? It isn’t the American Olympic organization that has a state-sponsored Olympic system that closely resembles the old Soviet and East German systems that were racked by state-backed cheating. And when you have former Chinese gymnasts admitting that they were underaged when they won their medals you have to expect some skeptics.

  25. wangbo Says:

    Jay, all good points, and I agree the media had to chase the story for precisely the reasons you state. But there was something in the tone of the comments by the likes of Bela Karolyi that made me suspect part of the motivation was sour grapes, and that I do not appreciate seeing in sport.