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Saturday, March 19, 2005 

The Olympic Gold for Scapegoating Goes to Greece

Yesterday, the disgraced Olympic medallist Greek sprinters, Ekaterina Thanou and Costas Kenteris were acquitted of charges that they dodged three drug tests leading up to the Athens 2004 Olympics. SEGAS, the Greek Amateur Athletics Federation, instead laid the entire blame for the missed tests on their coach, Christos Tzekos.

Greece's two most popular Olympic medal winners, Costas Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou were supposed to take a drug doping test prior to the Athens 2004 Olympics. On the eve of Opening Night, they were involved in a suspicious motorcycle accident which sent them to the hospital for 5 days with injuries which prevented them from taking the doping tests. These 'injuries' could not be confirmed by other doctors 48 hours later, nor could the accident itself be confirmed leading many to believe that it was purposely staged to avoid the doping tests. Considering that they also missed doping tests in Chicago and Chania, Crete as well, a pattern of missing the dope tests became apparent and therefore, charges were laid against the two sprinters and their coach.

The story becomes more interesting since two years prior to the August 2004 scandal, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) "demanded better cooperation from Greek athletes in anti-doping tests to "avoid unnecessary embarrassment" before the 2004 Olympics. A report by the IAAF's anti-doping commission in Monaco said many Greek athletes cannot be found for out-of-competition tests for banned substances." SEGAS responded with the usual hyperbolic Greek victim defence... "Who created this non-existing issue? Obviously those in Greece and abroad who lead this orchestrated attack on Greek track and field." SEGAS dismisses the concern as non-existant and slams anyone for even asking about it. Had they listened to the IAAFs advice back then, maybe Greece wouldn't have found itself disgraced on the opening day of the Olympics.

Then, in February, 2004, Christos Tzekos used the same defence when his name was involved in an American investigation of banned substances with a company called Balco in San Francisco. He described the mention of his name in the report as "“immoral and cowardly attack,” while threatening to take legal action against other “groundless reports and slanderous remarks.” Of course, SEGAS defended him back then calling the reports "anti-Greek propaganda and an insult to Greek athletics". Fast forward one year and those reports aren't so groundless or slanderous since SEGAS decided to lay the entire doping saga on his shoulders alone.

Even the Greek doping inspector, Psarellis testified that he was warned by SEGAS to be"less stringent" in performing the doping tests or locating the Greek athletes. Again, SEGAS responded by calling these allegations "slanderous and lies".

The verdict came as a shock to many but considering SEGAS' history of not heeding warnings, non-cooperation with international athletics governing bodies and repeated denials of any wrongdoing or incompetence, it really shouldn't have come as a surprise. They couldn't admit to any responsibility for not having taken appropriate measures to prevent the doping scandals which plagued the Greek athletes at the 2004 Olympics. They certainly couldn't admit that the same athletes they had vouched for as being drug-free, were, in fact, dopers so they did the next best face-saving thing...they pinned all the blame on a dispensable coach.

I do hope that the IAAF appeals this scapegoat decision and forces SEGAS to clean up its act because the country famous for the creation of the Olympic games may end up being the country notorious for providing scandals and not athletes to future Games. Future athletes deserve to perform without a cloud of suspicion over their heads and the fans deserve drug-free performances from their athletes.

Well, hopefully the reputation Greece suffers from this won't be long lasting and too severe.

Imagine the public perception if this cloud is still hanging and the Olympic Committee decides to let Greece hold the 100th Olympiad.

Wasn't America given a cold reception by some nations in the '00 Olympics or the last one?
Albeit, for very different reasons.

To blame the coach and not the athletes for their ACTIVE part in missing dope testing renders the decision suspect. That's like a smoker blaming a tobacco farmer for the fact that they smoke. SEGAS, Tzekos AND Kenteris and Thanou are 100% fully to blame for the disgrace they caused Greece at a time when Greece spent billions they didn't have to shine in the world spotlight. In my opinion, the all ought to have their citizenship revoked for the shame and embarrassment they caused an entire nation. I never heard any of them apologize even once for their irresponsible and cowardly actions.

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