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Romania: Gymnasts’ Ages Falsified

May 1, 2002

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ The head of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation acknowledged that the ages of some female gymnasts were falsified to allow them to compete at senior levels.

Nicolae Vieru, the head of the federation, confirmed the practice to the daily newspaper Pro-Sport.

``Changing the ages was a worldwide practice,″ Vieru said in an interview published Wednesday. ``We copied this from others.″

Vieru was not available for comment Wednesday. Adrian Stoica, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation secretary general, refused comment.

Romanian officials had previously denied falsifying ages.

Four female gymnasts, including 1992 Olympic medalist Gina Gogean, last month claimed that coaches and gymnastics officials forced them to declare themselves older so they could compete in senior-level competitions.

The International Gymnastics Federation raised the minimum age for competing in senior level competitions from 14 to 15 in 1986 and again from 15 to 16 in 1997.

Alexandra Marinescu, a bronze medalist at the Atlanta Games, told The Associated Press in an interview last month that coaches told her to lie about her age before an international competition.

Gogean, 23, was only 14 when she won a silver medal in Barcelona.

Silivas, 29, had two years added to her age so that she compete in the 1985 World Championships. She win a gold and a silver medal in the event.

Zahiu, 18, had her birth date changed from 1982 to 1983, the paper reported, giving no details.

Ion Tiriac, the head of the Romanian Olympic Committee, condemned the practices.

``Such things were not supposed to happen,″ he told Pro-Sport. ``As long as I am president of the Olympic Committee they will never happen again.″

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