ATHENS – Ten days before the London 2012 Olympic Games were set to begin, most of the Greek Olympic team was unveiled at a ceremony in the neo-classical Zappeion building in the heart of Athens, and the young men and women representing their country looked proud and talked defiantly, saying they were ready to carry the flag of Greece high despite the economic crisis that had much of the world believing their country was the land of the lazy.
There were, among them, many athletes who had been abandoned by their country after a previous government cut their training budget by 75 percent, forcing them to work out in antiquated conditions, without even hot water for showers in some cases. Long jumpers had to practice in pits filled with weeds while politicians were feeding themselves with taxpayer’s money and almost none of Greece’s greedy rich stepped forth to pony up a couple of dollars to help athletes who give up much of their lives to run and jump and swim for Greece.
Now, the real athletes – those who don’t depend on drugs but their own bodies and spirit and training – have been tainted again with the expulsion of world indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis and 3000-meter runner Irene Kokkinariou for failing drug tests to detect doping, and of triple jumper and Nazi-sympathizer Paraskevi “Voula” Papachristou for re-tweeting a racist Twitter message that mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus – which killed one Greek already – would have plenty of “homemade food” with all the African immigrants in the country.
It’s hard to say which is worse, taking drugs to cheat in a sport which is supposed to be pure competition between human beings to give yourself an advantage because you know you can’t win, just like Barry “Anabolic” Bonds did in baseball, or representing Greece while you admit your fondness for the neo-Nazi, immigrant-bashing Golden Dawn Neanderthals, as Papachristou has. She even sent a Name Day message to the party’s former spokesman, who will not get the benefit of having his name repeated, and who threw water in the face of a Leftist Member of Parliament and slapped a Communist member, Liana Kanelli, on live television and got away with it. The practical jokesters who make assignments in the Parliament put all three of them on the same committee. Since MP’s have immunity for all crimes, he could beat them up again and get away with it again and no one’s going to do jack about it.
Chondrokoukis, Kokkinariou and Papachristou, the Three Greek Stooges, didn’t really disgrace themselves because what they did (allegedly) shows they have no character, but they took Greece down with them again just when the country needed a boost and some hope, and for that they should not be forgiven and banned forever from wearing any shirt that says Hellas on it. Papachristou would be more comfortable with the Golden Dawn meander Swastika-like symbol anyway.
This debacle continues the shame from in 2004 when Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou allegedly had a motorcycle accident just before the opening of the Athens Olympics and missed a drug test they never had to take. Kenteris was the reigning 200-meter champion at the 2000 Sydney Games, and Thanou, the silver medalist at the same games in the 100-meter behind American Marion Jones, who proved to be a drug cheat so they were in the same company.
God apparently intervened though because it was a miracle that Kenteris and Thanou were tossed off a motorcycle and arrived at a hospital with only badly bruised egos. A Greek investigation found they faked the accident and conducted a cover-up with the help of doctors. But this being Greece where only immigrants and scapegoats go to jail, they were acquitted of those charges years later, although they felt ashamed enough at the time to remove themselves from the Olympics even though it was doubtful the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) would have done anything except applaud them for getting away with it.
In 2008, just before the Beijing Games in China, reigning 400-meter hurdles champion Fani Halkia was banned after testing positive for drugs. She denied it, of course, and asked for a backup test which also proved positive and that’s the hurdle she didn’t jump.
Chondrokoukis’ coach is also his father, Kyriakos Chondrokoukis, and he predictably said the failed drug test was a mistake, just as they always do, but he resigned so guess what he was really thinking. His son tested positive for a banned steroid, the favorite drug of athletic cheats, and while his father wanly asked for another test to be given, said weakly that he wouldn’t challenge the first result. “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 because when bad news happens in Greece people always hide behind statements and won’t face reporters because it’s hard to talk with guilt on your face.
Papachristou apologized for the offending tweet, which made her another athletic victim of the electronic age, and criticized the state for not helping athletes with financial support to help them train, although it seems some of that money was going to drug suppliers helping Greek athletes bulk up. While Golden Dawn predictably blasted her expulsion and blamed Leftists, Greece can’t be represented by someone with racist beliefs – which she denied – but couldn’t’ deny she “liked” the neo-Nazis on her social media pages.
“The expulsion of an athlete in the wake of backstage political interventions – simply because of a joke that is going around the Internet – proves how miserable and anti-Greek our state and the international bodies that use the Olympic ideals as their own are,” the party said in a statement, surprising in itself that someone there knows how to use a computer. “The only racism in Greece is the racism against the Greeks,” it said. But the Hitlerites weren’t done. “Anybody who says even a word against illegal immigrants is held up to public ridicule … it would be more honest to pass a law condemning everybody who has different views to death by stoning,” it said. Papachristou had go to because while it’s bad enough Golden Dawn has 18 seats in the Parliament, it didn’t deserve one on the Greek Olympic Team.
(Sources: AP, Reuters, Kathimerini)