ATHENS – The 2012 Olympic Games in London have not even opened yet and Greece’s disgrace – which began when triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou was banned after she tweeted a racist message about immigrants – has been compounded by the disqualification of world indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis for failing a drug test.
His father, Kyriakos Chondrokoukis, who is also his coach, confirmed that his son had tested positive for a banned steroid called stanozolol but did not say where he got it. The Greek athletics federation SEGAS, which has essentially stopped operation after its funding was severely cut back by the government because of the country’s economic crisis, told the champion’s father of the failed doping test, removing one of Greece’s best chances for a gold medal.
“My son will not be participating in the Olympics leaving behind a lifelong dream,” he said. After being told that a second anti-doping test has been requested, he said he told SEGAS he is resigning after 14 years as a coach. He said his son has not taken any banned substance and has asked for the backup “B” sample to be tested but also said he would not contest the result of the first test even though he wants a second test. “Despite the fact that we consider this news to be surreal, we do not wish to dispute the result of this test,” he stated in a letter, adding that he and his son might also seek to have both samples later tested at a separate accredited laboratory.
“The paradox of the use of such an easily detectible banned substance by a recent world champion who is under the microscope of doping control authorities, and on the eve of the Olympic Games, is blatantly obvious,” the father wrote. “Against this paradox I will fight, we will fight, to answer and determine what exactly happened.”
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said he had read media reports about the case, but concluded it was an matter for the International Association Athletics Federation (IAAF.) “If we are catching people with pre-games testing, it can only be a good thing. We applaud it,” Adams said. “The more drug cheats we can catch, the better.”
Chondrokoukis, a 22-year-old from Marousi, won gold at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul earlier this year with a personal best height of 2.33 meters, or 7-6.4 feet. His personal best on the outdoor track is one centimeter lower, but he was still regarded as a likely medalist and perhaps for the gold after elevating himself from a fifth-place finish in the World Championships in Daegu last year. Officials did not say if his improvement was because of using banned drugs.
In 2004, the 200-meter gold medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Kostas Kenteris, and fellow sprinter Katerina Thanou were kept out of the Athens Olympics after missing a drug test. They said they had a motorcycle accident that authorities said was faked but were acquitted after years of delays in the courts, a decision that shocked many Greeks.
It has been a brutal week for the Greek Olympic team that began with only 105 athletes, its lowest representation in 20 years. Papachristou told Reuters that her expulsion from the team over the racist Tweet on Twitter had left her bitter and sleepless and that she felt the punishment was excessive, even though the statement tying African immigrants in Greece to being food for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus originated with the neo-Nazi and vehemently anti-immigrant group Golden Dawn, which has 18 seats in the Greek Parliament.
“I have not slept at all and to be honest I am still trying to come to terms with what has happened,” she said. “I am trying to stay calm otherwise I would lose control. I am thankful to my coach and family and so many other people who have stuck by me.” Papachristou, who apologized for the offending tweet, said her main emotion was bitterness over her punishment. “After so many years of hurt and sacrifices to try and get to my first Olympics, I am very bitter and upset. But what has upset me the most is the excessive reaction and speed of the disciplinary decision,” she said.
She was a long shot for a medal with a season’s best of 14.58 meters or 47.83 feet, almost half a meter, or 1.64 feet behind the world leaders. “I don’t know if they want to make an example out of me because of my profile, this is for others to judge, but what I believe is that they used their maximum disciplinary power on me for this,” said Papachristou. “They went straight to the final stage in excluding me from the team which was highly excessive.”
Papachristou was found to also have sent a tweet to a Golden Dawn parliamentarian who is being charged with slapping a Communist Member of Parliament and throwing a glass of water at a Leftist colleague during a television appearance last month. She congratulated him on his name day but said, “I have never gotten involved with politics.”
She also blasted the Greek government for failing to support the Olympic team and cutting back the funding for athletes to train. “We have zero support from the state,” she said. “There are a lot of things that people do not know about, such as the unacceptable conditions in which we have to train. There is no heating and no hot water even to take a shower in winter, no air conditioning in the summer and squalid training facilities and equipment in a state of disrepair. These are just the tip of the iceberg without mentioning the financial side and how we have been affected by massive cuts in state-funding for sport,” she said.
(Sources: AP, Reuters)