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Gymnasts suspected of being underage have hearing

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A decision on whether two Chinese gymnasts were old enough to compete at the Sydney Olympics is expected in February after the athletes appeared before a disciplinary commission.

Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun, along with their parents and two Chinese gymnastics officials, met Saturday and Sunday with the International Gymnastics Federation's disciplinary commission. Dong and Yang are suspected of being as young as 14 in Sydney, where China won the bronze medal and Yang also won a bronze on uneven bars.

Gymnasts must turn 16 during an Olympic year to be eligible to compete.

The three-person disciplinary commission will submit its opinion to the FIG's executive committee at its Feb. 26 meeting. If the commission decides Dong and Yang were underage, it also could recommend sanctions.

Because the case involves the Olympics, however, it would be up to the International Olympic Committee to decide if China should lose any medals. The IOC has said previously it would take "necessary measures" if the FIG finds Dong and Yang were underage.

Questions about their ages arose during the FIG's investigation into the eligibility of members of China's team that won the gold medal at the Beijing Games. The 2008 gymnasts were eventually cleared, but the FIG said it wasn't satisfied with "the explanations and evidence provided to date" for Dong and Yang.

Yang said in a June 2007 interview that aired on state broadcaster China Central Television that she was 14 in Sydney. Yang later told The Associated Press she had misspoken, but declined further comment.

Dong's official birthdate is listed as Jan. 20, 1983, but the FIG said accreditation information for the Beijing Olympics, where Dong worked as a national technical official, listed her birthdate as Jan. 23, 1986.

That would have made Dong 14 in Sydney.

Dong's blog also said she was born in the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac, which dated from Feb. 20, 1985, to Feb. 8, 1986. Dong has not denied that, but she refused to answer any questions about her age when reached by the AP.

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