And now, having been caught, er, red-handed, they’re lamely trying to hide the evidence. Too late. Thanks, Xinhua!

Just nine months before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government’s news agency, Xinhua, reported that gymnast He Kexin was 13, which would have made her ineligible to be on the team that won a gold medal this week…

The Associated Press found the Xinhua report on the site Thursday morning and saved a copy of the page. Later that afternoon, the Web site was still working but the page was no longer accessible. Sports editors at the state-run news agency would not comment for publication…

“It’s definitely a mistake,” Zhang [Hongliang, an official with China’s gymnastics delegation,] said of the Xinhua report, speaking in a telephone interview. “Never has any media outlet called me to check the athletes’ ages.”

Asked whether the federation had changed their ages to make them eligible, Zhang said: “We are a sports department. How would we have the ability to do that?”

How indeed would an eventual gold-medal gymnastics team overseen by the same government that faked multiple aspects of the opening ceremony to make sure everything went according to script gain such an unfair competitive advantage? Well, funny thing: As noted by both Gateway Pundit and HuffPo blogger David Flumenbaum — each backed up by screencaps — Xinhua’s not the only Chinese news source that reported He was underage. Nor would this be the first time a Chinese gymnast’s records had been doctored to make her eligible. Flumenbaum:

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, three years after the minimum age was raised to 16 in gymnastics, Chinese gymnast Yang Yun competed and won a bronze medal in the uneven bars (coincidentally this event is also He’s specialty). Yang’s passport said she was born on December 24, 1984 and turning 16 in the year of the Games, making her eligible. She later confessed in a television interview that she was only 14 at the time of the competition and that she and her coaches had lied about her age.

As in the case of Yang Yun, the existing records prior to the Olympics — local registries, athletic records and news articles — were all correct, whereas the documentation she showed Olympic officials to confirm her eligibility proved to be false. It is no coincidence that He Kexin’s passport was issued on February 14, 2008, a mere 6 months before the Olympics.

So rotten does this smell, so widely has it been covered, and so suspect is the ChiComs’ ruthlessness that there’s probably no “next step” needed at this point to convince most of the audience that it’s a sham. So much for the regime’s dream of the Olympics burnishing its image. The one move left is for the IOC to investigate, but if they aren’t willing to punish the Iranians for refusing to swim with Israelis, what are the odds that they’re going to confront the host nation with a humiliating scandal? I hope they don’t intervene, frankly. Let them share the grandiose, discrediting embarrassment.