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Age Scandal Continues, Yi Jianlian Proved To Be Three Years Older

China Sports Review previously told you about the age scandal over Chinese basketball and football players. Li Zhigang, a reporter from Sports Illustrated China(体育画报), posted an article on his blog yesterday about the investigation over Yi Jianlian‘s age. Yi, now playing at the New Jersey Nets, entered NBA in 2007/2008 season. For those of you who’re not familiar with the story of his age, below are some excerpts from Wikipedia:

Although Yi is officially listed as being born in 1987,there have been several allegations that his date of birth was intentionally falsified so that he would be able to play longer in junior competitions. However, Yi has refused to comment on his age.

Yi is not the first Chinese player to come under scrutiny, as former NBA player Wang Zhizhi has been listed as being born in both 1977 and 1979. In 2004, Yi was listed as being born in 1984 in China’s Four Nation Tournament,although Chinese officials said that it was probably a typographical error. Two years later, Fran Blinebury of The Houston Chronicle reported that Yi told Shane Battier he was 24 in an exhibition game before the 2006 FIBA World Championship, although the story was refuted by both Yi and Battier. However, in November 2006, a senior CBA official admitted that past youth squads had indeed included players above the permitted age.

In 2007, a Chinese government registration site was made public by hackers, and Yi’s date of birth was shown as being in 1984. American center Jason Dixon, who had been Yi’s teammate during Yi’s entire career in Guangdong, said to Chad Ford in June 2007 that Yi was “21 or 22…It’s pretty common over [in China] to change ages”.

Li went to Yi Jianlian’s hometown, Xitou Village in Heshan City(鹤山市沙坪镇坡山村西头村), Guangdong Province for interviews in November. He found Yi’s senior high registration form at Binhe Middle School(滨河中学) which seemed to be filled by Yi himself, listing his date of birth as Oct.27, 1984, 3 years older than his NBA registration age. The reporter also found an elementary graduation group photo of Yi taken in 1997, which pretty much says it all. Li later received floods of nasty comments after posting the article and he published a new post today to those he referred to as ‘bystanders’. Below is our translation:

First, I’m a sports journalist and it’s my responsibility to report. Let’s set aside morals and patriotism and only state the facts. Truth can not be falsified.

Second, we can see the governing body of Chinese basketball’s willingness to make an improvement from the emergence of age-gate news per se. Even the widely scolded bureaucracy is now willing to change. How come a group of bystanders can’t stand a registration form?

Third, I’d like to quote Li Yingfa, a football coach I interviewed this September, who won ten consecutive league championships back in the 80s. “Our young team was playing older players at the time. It’s not like Chinese football today, trading their ages for only some good results. Players now all change their ages by 2 or 3 years. This is what keeps trapping Chinese football, as our players can’t compete with others when they get older. Our team didn’t care about the results back then. We had gotten a number of young talents and that’s what made the team successful.”

The new round of age-scandal questions all begins with Arthur Volbert’s article last month, in which 22 players were found to have changed their ages before the new season. CBA, the government body of Chinese basketball, then told media that Arthur’s number is not accurate and there’re actually 26 players changed their ages  after checking their IDs together with the police.

Related Reads:

photo: Li Zhigang

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Yi Jianlian’s age was pretty obviously falsified and I applaud Li’s efforts in uncovering the truth. Denials to follow, no doubt.

    In the not too distant future someone will track down an incriminating picture of He Kexin and the IOC can ask for a few medals back. Just a question of time, although in her case clearly coerced into deception.

    December 20, 2008

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