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Hacker Uncovers Chinese Olympic Fraud 1275

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that's-a-helluva-home-court-advantage dept.
SkeptOlympics writes "A new chapter in the ongoing controversy surrounding China's women's gymnastics team opened today, as search engine hacker stryde.hax found surviving copies of official registration documents issued by China's General Administration of Sport of China. The incriminating documents, expunged by censors from the official site and from Google's document cache, still appear in the document translation cache of Chinese search giant Baidu, here (1) and here (2), showing the age of one of China's gold medal winning gymnasts to be 14 instead of 16, the minimum age for competition presented on her government-issued passport. Now that official government documentation is available, how long will the IOC be able to keep a lid on this scandal?" I imagine the answer is "Forever."
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Hacker Uncovers Chinese Olympic Fraud

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  • by thehickcoder (620326) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:49AM (#24672685) Homepage
    Uh oh, some poor sysadmin at Baidu is in need of "re-education".
    • Re:Re-education (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:54AM (#24672745)

      This is actually incredibly likely

      See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/peter_foster/blog/2008/08/20/the_ioc_plays_appeaser_in_beijing [telegraph.co.uk] for recent prior art.

      • Re:Re-education (Score:5, Insightful)

        by manekineko2 (1052430) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:17PM (#24675647)

        At this point, it seems overwhelmingly apparent that the Olympics is simply big business. In your article, the IOC states:
        '"My clients, the sponsors and broadcasters are happy with the positive view that the Olympics is about sport and the focus is quite rightly on that," said the IOC's marketing director Timo Lumme.' Yes, that is who their clients are.

        I saw a number being tossed around of $1 billion that NBC paid for exclusive broadcast rights. Visa paid hundreds of millions for exclusive credit card rights, to the detriment of the people that actually attend the games, and find they can't use their credit cards.

        According to Wikipedia, they made 4 billion from the last Olympics, and they distribute the money throughout the Olympic Movement. As best as I can tell from Google, these are all non-profits.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Olympic_Committee#Olympic_marketingAs [wikipedia.org]

        My question then is: Where is all the money going? 4 billion dollars is a lot to be spending just on administration, especially when the host countries are the ones paying for infrastructure.

        It just doesn't seem to make any sense. It can't all be going to hookers and blow...can it?

    • Re:Re-education (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:23AM (#24673243)

      Unlike "Do no Evil" Google.

      http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2008/08/hack-olympics.html [blogspot.com]
      1. Google's cached copy of the spreadsheet does not contain Hexin's age record, and Baidu's does. This does not necessarily imply that Google allowed its data to be rewritten by Chinese censors, but the possibility does present itself.
      2. From the minute I pressed the publish button on this blog, the clock is ticking until Hexin's true age is wiped out of the Baidu cache forever. It is up to you, the folks reading this blog, to take your own screenshots and notarize them by publishing them. If you put a link in the comments section, I'll post it.

      Hmm, that reminds me of something

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_hole [wikipedia.org]
      In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston's arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.(pp. 34-35 1984 by George Orwell)

      Totalitarian societies will always have memory holes to destroy documents with politically inconvenient facts in them, and armies of minions writing replacement documents without those facts. But it's very, very sad to see Google seemingly cooperating in this process.

      I took a screenshot of the age in the Baidu cache -

      http://img354.imageshack.us/img354/2111/199411bw0.png [imageshack.us]

    • by atari2600 (545988) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:25AM (#24673289)

      A couple of elderly women (70+) are being reducated [guardian.co.uk] for wanting to protest their eviction and their sin was timing their application during the Olympics. That and the incident where their poster golden boy broke down from too much training and his coach said the extreme pressure [telegraph.co.uk] from the regime was to blame convinces me there is a god up there and he was looking after me for I was not born in China.

      Yes, I am being melodramatic and I think it's apt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:50AM (#24672687)

    China has already taken their official stance. They just don't care about the rules and don't care what other people think about it.

    • by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:52AM (#24672717) Journal
      More importantly, the IOC has taken their official stance, too.
      • by bonehead (6382) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:10AM (#24673033)

        And their stance is about as ridiculous as it gets. They've stated that the girls passports are sufficient proof of their age. (Well, there's slightly more to it than that, but that's what it boils down to.)

        Great idea, accept documents created by the very people accused of cheating as proof that they didn't cheat.

        • by multimed (189254) <mrmultimediaNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:15AM (#24673119)
          Much in the same way anyone wishing to protest in the "designated protest areas" must file a petition to protest from the very state they'd protest against.
        • by LordKronos (470910) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:48AM (#24673751) Homepage

          Imagine if our courts took the same approach

          Defendant: I did not rob that bank. To prove that I am innocent....here's a picture of me in the bank not robbing it.

          Judge: That's good enough for me. <bangs gavel> Not guilty!

        • by kabocox (199019) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:59AM (#24673975)

          And their stance is about as ridiculous as it gets. They've stated that the girls passports are sufficient proof of their age. (Well, there's slightly more to it than that, but that's what it boils down to.)

          Great idea, accept documents created by the very people accused of cheating as proof that they didn't cheat.

          Um, well what documents would you want for proof? Birth cert, marriage lic, passports, and DL are all issued by the country that they live in. Are wanting folks to register with the IOC at birth so that they can insure that if you are ever competing in their events that you meet their age requirements?

          The IOC has little choice but to accept the national passports as sufficient proof of their age. If a national government wants to fudge some one's age on their passport that's their issue and not IOCs. IOC just accepts the document as presented. It isn't world gov or world cop. If the national govs want to bend/break their own rules, then IOC has to live with it. IOC doesn't have an teeth to beat a national government with and no one really would want it to have any either.

          • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @01:41PM (#24677351)

            It was proved that North Korea altered official documents to allow underage girls to participate in world gymnastic competitions and they are currently bared from participation because of their falsification of documents.

            Much like this proof should involve the striping of the Chinese medals and a bar on participation by Chinese competitors in international gymnastics should be imposed, probably in the 4 year range.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:51AM (#24672703)

    The IOC are making themselves look pretty scummy by association at the moment. They seem complicit in various pieces of fraud and dodgy dealings, and perfectly willing to help cover everything up.

    But then I've never held them in that high a regard anyway. They're a business and they make the world's governments beg like puppydogs to be allowed to hold their games.

    Frankly I find the whole thing to be something of a joke, and an incredible waste of money.

  • Minimum Age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sarahbau (692647) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:52AM (#24672731)

    Why is there a minimum age to begin with? I think if a 14 year old can compete at the level of those a few years older, she should be allowed to. Is the age requirement only in gymnastics? Wasn't Michael Phelps 15 in his first Olympics in 2000?

    • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Informative)

      by Phil John (576633) <phil@webstarslt d . c om> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:58AM (#24672809)
      It's to do with the safety of the competitors (underdeveloped bones etc.) as gymnastics takes much more of a toll on your body than swimming (being exceedingly hig. I would wager being younger, and lighter, also helps on things like the Asymmetric Bars.
      • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Interesting)

        by value_added (719364) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:25AM (#24673279)

        It's to do with the safety of the competitors (underdeveloped bones etc.) as gymnastics takes much more of a toll on your body than swimming (being exceedingly hig. I would wager being younger, and lighter, also helps on things like the Asymmetric Bars.

        If my recollection of Sanjay Gupta's comments on CNN is of any value, I believe the issue is the opposite, namely that underdeveloped bones confer a real advantage to the athlete (they're more "bendy" in addition to being "lighter").

        • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Informative)

          by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:36AM (#24673493)

          It's to do with the safety of the competitors (underdeveloped bones etc.) as gymnastics takes much more of a toll on your body than swimming (being exceedingly hig. I would wager being younger, and lighter, also helps on things like the Asymmetric Bars.

          If my recollection of Sanjay Gupta's comments on CNN is of any value, I believe the issue is the opposite, namely that underdeveloped bones confer a real advantage to the athlete (they're more "bendy" in addition to being "lighter").

          Young competitors are more capable of performing flips and spins and such, but more likely to get injured in competition. This rule was agreed upon by the international gymnastics community due to such injuries.

      • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Insightful)

        by robertjw (728654) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:39AM (#24673551) Homepage

        It's to do with the safety of the competitors (underdeveloped bones etc.)

        The safety issue doesn't make sense. All of these girls are competing in Jr. events before turning 16. It's not like they aren't allowed to compete until 16, just not at this level. If it's really a safety issue, they shouldn't be allowed to train or compete until 16.

        • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Informative)

          by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:48AM (#24673731)

          but the jr. events are much lower difficulty in order to have a chance to be competitive, and the jr. events also restrict the difficulties to protect the kids competing. Olympic competition is a lot more dangerous due to the need to execute difficult maneuvers in order to be competitive.

    • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:00AM (#24672857)

      As I understand it, there's a huge performance difference between just a few years, smaller girls rotate faster and are quicker. It's like the difference between weight classes in boxing, you pair like against like.

      But more to the point, the rule is the rule. You don't ignore a rule in the competition just because you don't agree with it. The Dolphins can't put 50 guys out on the field just because they suck and think they need the extra help, regardless of what the rules say.

      China is cheating, end of story. And the IOC is corrupt, go figure.

    • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Informative)

      by kidgenius (704962) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:01AM (#24672891)
      The younger you are, the smaller you tend to be. If you are smaller, you can spin/rotate faster (pure physics there). Additionally, you are more flexible, so you can perform certain maneuvers that get more difficult as you get older. There also is a "fear" issue that plays a small part where a younger person, not having the same number of opportunities to fall and hurt themselves, will be more fearless than an older person who has been banged up a bit. Women's gymnastics isn't really about strength, so age doesn't help you. Whereas in other sports, men's gymnastics even, the stronger you are, the better you probably will be, and the older you are, the stronger you tend to be.
    • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Informative)

      by anonicon (215837) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:02AM (#24672907)

      There's a minimum age because FIG (Federation Internationale de Gymnastique) implemented one in 1997:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artistic_gymnastics [wikipedia.org]

      Why? Well, it's not conclusive, but this article has some good reasons:

      http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080817014559AAZVAvK [yahoo.com]

    • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:18AM (#24673159) Homepage

      Even though you have tons of sports in the Olympics, each sport is different, especially in culture.

      In order to groom a good gymnast you have to start very young and you have to practice constantly, training for much of her life. You must be physically strong, flexible, have incredible coordination and balance, have low weight and low body fat and be relatively fearless. The types of things female gymnasts are asked to do are best performed by teenage girls who have made a life long career out of gymnastics. The problem is that once you realize this, you press gymnasts to train harder and harder, faster and faster. You get into situations were girls train too much, ignore schooling, get injuries because they push too hard, begin to suffer from bolemia and anorexia, etc. To top it off, you typically only get 1 shot at olympic gold, if at all, because in 4 years your "washed up" because the next girl who comes along is the new star and at 20 you can't do the same things you can at 16. At that young age, all you want to do is get your moment in the spotlight, make your coach and your parents happy, and get your pony. You aren't thinking about your long term future, and most gymnasts don't have a future in gymnastics outside of their teen years. If you look at this culture, women's gymnastics no longer looks like such a pretty sport.

      At least in men's gymnastics, they can attend at least two olympics, because their events are based more on strength and men can continue to get stronger past their teen years

      Just to paint a little more broad picture, look at swimming this year. There's a 40 year old woman swimming for the american team this year. Phelps has been in two and could be in three olympics. Swimmers train hard, but in general they can get better as they get older, as Phelps did, but gymnasts peak early. When have you seen a woman gymnast in more than 1 olympics? When have you seen a 24 year old female gymnast, much less a 40 year old one?

      The point of the rule is a stop gap to prevent downward pressure on the average age of a gymnast, and allow them to grow up at least a little bit in the hopes they can make better decisions for themselves, and so that coaches and countries don't start pushing 12 year olds as gymnasts. A 14 year old is a little more fearless than a 16 year old... in a very bad way. One bad decision could cause severe injury, and pushing a girl that young will have lasting effects on her life, mostly bad. I would not put it past communist regimes like China to have a state run program where they don't care about their girls and create a program which churns out 12-14 year old world class gymnasts who in turn are discarded with severe emotional and physical problems later in life.

      So in short, it's their to protect the girls from themselves and everyone else who would push them too hard to early. Personally, I'd want the limit higher, because calling those gymnasts "women" is downright upsetting to me, and they still start incredibly young for a fleeting chance at a bit of stardom.

    • Re:Minimum Age (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:28AM (#24673345) Homepage Journal

      1. In some areas of gymnastics being young gives you and advantage.
      2. The training can be very harmful to young women.
      3. It is the rules. You know just like it is a rule that you can not take certain drugs, use certain tennis rackets, and so on.

      So these Olympics has really been a show case for China.
      It shows that they will say one thing like agreeing to freedom of the press and then do something totally different.
      And that they will cheat at the Government level even for something so trivial as winning a game.
      Oh and that they think clean air is just not all that important.
      Good show.

  • by SengirV (203400) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:53AM (#24672737)

    Easy, it depends on how many millions the chicoms pour into their private bank accounts. The IOC is the biggest joke in all of sports.

  • My question is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:54AM (#24672757) Journal
    is this seen as a scandal the world over, or just in America? No doubt many in China will believe that the gov on this and ignore the evidence (even if the girls and their parents come forward and admit it as well). But Do many in EU, South America, Africa, Asia Minor, Japan, South Korea, oceana, etc see this as a pretty wicked scandel of both Chinese gov AND IOC?
  • I predict... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:58AM (#24672817) Journal

    Nobody from the IOC is going to say a word about this before they've left China. It would be rather foolhardy to do otherwise.

    -jcr

  • by bonehead (6382) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:59AM (#24672827)

    The IOC is going to lose a LOT of credibility over this (as if they have much left to begin with) if they don't do something about it soon.

    I wouldn't even mind if they didn't award the gold to the American women. Let them keep the silver, but it needs to be stripped from the Chinese. This is only proof of one of them being underage, but from what I've been reading, it's starting to seem pretty certain that at least 3 of them are underage.

    And if China was willing to cheat this blatantly in this event, it makes you wonder what might have been going on behind closed doors with the rest of their athletes.

  • Crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:59AM (#24672831) Homepage Journal
    Now I'm quite disturbed about the thoughts I was having about the Chinese gymnastics team. I wonder if I can bill my therapy to the local Chinese embassy. Or restaurant. Or maybe I'll just go eat Chinese... NO! NO! BAD!

    Sigh. I blame the Chinese government for this.

  • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <.elmuerte. .at. .drunksnipers.com.> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:01AM (#24672869) Homepage

    She's 16 in Chinese years, which is 14 is US years.

  • But Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:02AM (#24672899)
    Who didn't assume the Chinese would "cheat to win" at least a few times in this Olympics? They want to dazzle the world and win as many medals as possible. One has to assume they'll resort to unsavory tactics as long as plausible deniability exists.

    On another Olympics note, does anyone else think there have been an unusually high number of errors in the technical events this year? Perhaps I just wasn't watching that closely in previous years, but I thought there have been an inordinate number of falls (off balance beams), poor landings and other substantial technical failures by the competitors. We've had outstanding performances by the likes of Phelps and Bolt, but otherwise there's been a lot of sucking by these elite athletes.
    • Re:But Seriously (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @11:30AM (#24674545)

      It's the new scoring system.

      You can get more points for a difficult routine that you perform with a few steps/wobbles than a simpler routing you perform perfectly. So, a double backflip with a twist, ending with a step will give you more points that a "regular" double backflip without a step.

  • Don't be evil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MECC (8478) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:02AM (#24672901)

    That's strange. Fortunately, we can click on "View as HTML" in the Google cache and see it. However, even though the Google search results indicate that He Kexin is listed in the spreadsheet, when you view Google's cached version, her name no longer appears.

    So much for don't be evil...

    • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:16AM (#24673127) Homepage Journal

      That doesn't mean that Google modified the cache, it just means that the cached version has been modified.

      Recall that Microsoft Office applications do not always remove deleted data, and Google's search engine operates on the raw data in a file (which means that Google will return search results that seem less than obvious if you just look at a rendered copy of the file... something search engine spammers find handy). That means if someone in China deleted that row from the spreadsheet, it would still show up in Google's search.

    • Re:Don't be evil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:22AM (#24673223)

      That's strange. Fortunately, we can click on "View as HTML" in the Google cache and see it. However, even though the Google search results indicate that He Kexin is listed in the spreadsheet, when you view Google's cached version, her name no longer appears.

      So much for don't be evil...

      He is wrong, the google search results in his own screen shots only indicate that the number 1994 is in the spreadsheet. In fact, the blogger is being deliberately deceiving because when you view the actual cache it explicitly tells you that the girl's chinese name is only found in other documents that link to the spreadsheet. It is right there at the top of the page, but his screenshots only show the middle of the page.

      See for yourself [google.com]

      It is far more likely that baidu is more out of date than google - i.e. the last time google spidered that website, the girl's info had already been wiped so google cached a more recent version of the file while baidu had not yet re-spidered that site and thus still has an older copy in their cache.

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:17AM (#24673147) Homepage

    Seriously!

    If anyone puts the 1st of January as their birth date, it is only because that is the most convenient fake birth date to enter on an HTML form.

    01/01/ and then whatever year you need to be to apply for whatever it is you are applying for.

  • by ANCOVA (1175953) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:27AM (#24673315)
    This is old news. There were already some discussions regarding this on various Chinese forums. People have dug up webpages showing reports of her age as 14, all coming from the same source, namingly the "6-city competition". Insiders said it's actually the local gymnastics team which He belongs to that forged her age as 14, in order to get the highly skilled olympian into this event,which has a underage group meant for young gymnastists under 15. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this new discovery of hidden spreadsheets is going to fit in the story.
  • Hacker? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:27AM (#24673317)

    Where's the hacking part come in? Give him credit for his search and chinese language skills but hacking?
  • by sjonke (457707) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:28AM (#24673329) Journal

    What I do know, however, is that there needs to be more coverage of women's beach volleyball signals.

  • Broken Sport (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeytsai (49613) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:27PM (#24675859) Homepage

    Speaking as someone with no knowledge of the gymnastics, it seems to me that the sport is just broken and this is a symptom of the problem.

    Why is it that when women start developing (gasp!), they are hugely disadvantaged in the world of competitive gymnastics? It seems *that* is the fundamental problem, and it doesn't appear to be a problem that's too difficult to solve. To have a women's sport where the best competitors are the farthest thing from actual women seems silly.

    Yes, I understand that with the current gymnastic events it is an advantage to be smaller, lighter, not as curvy, etc. But while we cannot control the woman's figure, of course we can control the sport and its events. Why not choose or create events that aren't hindered by a woman's curves or emphasize artistic moves that prefer a adult's center of mass, rather than a child's, etc.?

    If the olympic events naturally favor younger girls, then expect more and more younger girls to compete and succeed. To put a restriction which are contrary to nature the sport itself - you are guaranteed they will be protested and circumvented.

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr

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