This summer, China was accused of using underage gymnasts in the Olympics. Now they’ve caught their own basketball players fudging their ages the other way. Thirty-six players in the China Basketball Association (almost 15% of the league) were found guilty of “age-shaving” Wednesday, and had their names submitted to FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, and the Asian Basketball Association. The identities of the offending parties were not made public.
Chinese authorities investigated the entire league by checking players’ listed birthdates against national police databases. “In the future we will take whatever measures to strictly monitor player registrations,” said Communist Party official Liu Xiaonong.
Unlike gymnasts, basketball players can gain a distinct advantage by playing against younger competition. In lower age groups, older players are simply bigger, and even as they move up the ranks, 18 year-old “up-and-coming rookies” will often get more playing time than a similarly-skilled 21 year-old “veterans”. For all these reasons, Yi Jianlian was dogged by questions about his age in the weeks leading up to the 2007 NBA Draft.
The practice of age-shaving, however, isn’t at all limited to basketball in China. It’s been found to happen all over the world in soccer and baseball, most recently with star shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Photo from the NBA