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Diane Francis

Diane Francis

Posted: August 15, 2008 04:06 PM

Female Gymnastics Is Always About Child Abuse


China's been caught cheating by breaking the age rule in female gymnastics. That's unforgiveable.

But frankly the 16-year age rule is irrelevant. All females who eventually become world-class gymnasts have been exploited while they are children. I think that competitive female gymnastics is really child abuse and the practice goes on in every country in the world.

This is because, for females, developing Gold Medal skills is a race against puberty. So little girls, as young as four or five, are recruited and spend their childhoods in gyms raised by coaches, some of whom behave like Svengalis. These kids are brainwashed into attempting dangerous tricks, accepting injuries and pain. These gyms always have a psychologist on staff to goad or guilt these kids. Parents often don't know what goes on because they are usually banned from the gyms. This is as true in the United States as it is in China.

The reason female gymnastics is a race is against puberty is because once maturity happens the female body adds 5% body weight which adversely limits their strength and endurance. By contrast, male gymnasts can only be developed after puberty because that is when they acquire sufficient strength to do their tricks. This also means that their careers are not only post-puberty but last longer into adulthood.

A 20-year-old female gymnast is an oxymoron. Doesn't exist.

My guess is that most of the female gymnasts in Beijing are either under 16, despite rules, or are physiologically under 16 because they have a regimen, or hormones, that postpone puberty's onset.

It is inhumane to most of the children involved, and should be banned along with other forms of child labor and abuse.

Read more HuffPost coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games