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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Romanian gymnasts faked age to compete
Gina Gogean
Gina Gogean was only 14 at her first Olympics
Teenage Romanian girls were ordered to lie about their ages to be allowed to compete in gymnastics competitions including the Olympics, a Romanian coach has admitted.

The head of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, Nicolae Vieru, said the practice was widespread during the last decade.

Alexandra Marinescu during a beam exercise
Alexandra Marinescu said coaches told her to lie
The International Gymnastics Federation raised the minimum age to participate in top competitions from 14 to 15 in 1986 and from 15 to 16 in 1997.

But Romania sent underage girls to both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, where they succeeded in winning medals.

Gina Gogean won a team silver medal at Barcelona in 1992 when she was just 14 - too young to compete legally.

Long-term cheating

Four years later in Atlanta, Alexandra Marinescu had to lie to officials to join Gogean and the rest of the Romanian team which won a bronze medal.

Marinescu later claimed coaches told her to fake her age - still recorded wrongly in her passport.


Changing the ages was a worldwide practice

Gymnastics chief Nicolae Vieru
Mr Vieru told the respected Romanian daily newspaper Pro-Sport that the allegations were true, but said it was not merely his team breaking the rules.

"Changing the ages was a worldwide practice," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper that revealed the faked-age scandal.

"We copied this from others."

Romanian officials had previously denied that the ages of Gogean, Marinescu and at least two other female gymnasts had been altered.

Romanian pledge

Ion Tiriac, president of the Romanian Olympic Committee, said that "from the International Gymnastics Federation to all other organisations, this was a practice employed by everybody".

"Obviously, these practices should not have happened. As long as I remain ROC president, these things are not going to happen again."

He added that from his point of view the matter was now closed.

Elsewhere in the former communist bloc, it has emerged that doping was a widespread practice in East German sport.

The former chief doctor of the East German swimming team gave girls in his charge performance-enhancing drugs without telling them or their parents.

See also:

12 Jan 00 | Europe
Sports doctor doped swimmers
05 May 00 | Europe
Apology over East German doping
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