|North Korea's gymnasts will be out of competition for two full years because of the changing ages for 2004 Olympian Hong Su Jong, the FIG announced Friday.
North Korea is suspended from international competition until October 2012 for age falsification and false registration, the International Gymnastics Federation announced Friday.
As IG reported in September, North Korean gymnast Hong Su Jong's birth year has appeared over the years as 1985, 1986 and 1989. For the 2010 World Championships, the North Korean federation submitted Hong's birth year as 1989, meaning she was underage at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
On Oct. 5, the FIG's Disciplinary Commission provisionally suspended the North Korean federation for 30 days, leaving the country out of October's world championships in Rotterdam. North Korea appealed but the FIG upheld the suspension, stating the federation's offered excuses for the varying birth dates were not credible.
Hong's case is the second age falsification offense for North Korea. The North Korean women were banned from the 1993 World Championships after the FIG discovered gymnast Kim Gwang Suk had been registered as being 15 from 1989-1991.
The FIG Presidential Commission followed the Disciplinary Commission's recommendation to suspend North Korea for two years, from Oct. 6, 2010 to Oct. 5, 2012, and to forbid its participation "in any capacity in any competition or activity authorised or organised by the FIG, any Union, any National Federation, any club or in any international event."
The FIG stated that Hong also is not allowed to compete in any domestic competition during that period of time.
"The FIG's decision is a clear signal to those who would willfully disregard the current rules surrounding gymnast age. The health of its athletes and respect for the law are among the International Gymnastics Federation's highest priorities," the FIG stated.
The sanction includes not only the women's team, but also North Korea's male gymnasts and rhythmic gymnasts. Notably this affects male standout Ri Se Gwang, the only gymnast who has competed two vaults of the maximum difficulty of 7.2 (piked double front-half and Tsukahara double back with a full twist).
The latest birth date for Hong Su Jong — March 9, 1989 — confirms the long-held suspicion that she and her sister, Hong Un Jong, are twins. Hong Un Jong, whose date of birth has been listed consistently as March 9, 1989, won the gold medal on vault at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Hong Un Jong did not compete at the 2004 Olympics.
The FIG also hit the North Korean federation with a fine of 20,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $20,800). Several years ago, the North Korean federation was temporarily suspended from the FIG for being unable to pay its membership dues.
The FIG showed leniency, however, by not stripping Hong of the silver medal she won on vault at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart for the infraction of "false registration." Although a 1989 year of birth would have been made her age eligible in 2007, Hong was registered in Stuttgart using a passport that listed her year of birth as 1986. All passports are photocopied, the FIG told IG. However, the FIG could not determine that 1986 is a false birthdate.
North Korea may appeal the sanction in writing within 21 days, the FIG stated.
Click here to download FIG Disciplinary Committee's findings and recommendation for suspension.