While the New York Times reported back in July that there was a possibility that two of the athletes on the Chinese women’s gymnastics team taking part in this year’s Olympics appeared to be underage judging from online documentation, the Chinese authorities immediately produced passports for the two girls involved which stated their ages to be 16 – the minimum age for eligibility.
However, online discussion and disputes remained ongoing with the Wikipedia entry for athlete, He Kexin, rapidly changing as different parties altered her age: “One paragraph that discusses the controversy of her age kept disappearing and reappearing on He’s entry,” reported the New York Times.
The dispute heated up on Tuesday when security expert, Mike Walker, from US firm Intrepdius Group – operating under the name of Stryde Hax – simply carried out web searches for Excel documents to see if he could find conclusive proof of the athletes’ real ages and then produced this evidence on his blog.
“Two spreadsheets published by the Chinese Government on sport.gov.cn both list He Kexin’s birthday as 01-01-1994, making her 14 years old,” he said definitively.
While he found documents indexed on the Chinese version of Google, another search hours later showed that these results were already gone.
While initially setting out to prove the girls were underage, Hax said the issue was now about internet censorship: “The act of removing evidence, while at the same time claiming that the evidence is wrong.
“For the first time, I watched search records shift under my feet like sand, facts draining down a hole in the internet. Will this stand?,” he asked.
Walker’s revelations and subsequent media reports has spurred on an investigation into these allegations by the International Olympic Committee.
By Marie Boran
Pictured: He Kexin, centre, one of the Olympic athlete suspected of being below competing