Politicians step into doping fray

The doping scandal that has shaken Greece has not only tainted some of the country’s most beloved sports figures, it has sparked a political clash between the government and former ruling party, PASOK. Following the failure of star sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou to undergo a mandatory doping test, which forced them to withdraw from the Games, weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis was stripped of his bronze medal after testing positive for an abnormally high level of testosterone. All this appeared to be too much for veteran weightlifting coach Christos Iacovou, who declared late Monday, «I’m tired, it’s time for me to stop.» This may also have been caused by the fact three-time Olympic champions Pyrros Dimas, in his last appearance, won a bronze and Kakhi Kakhiashvili failed to lift the bar in the clean and snatch. But Iacovou, touted as a possible candidate for Parliament by PASOK, was probably responding to Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos’s comment on the Sampanis affair that «the PASOK sports system cultivated rackets and has to be uprooted.» Iacovou has the backing of the national weightlifting federation head, Yiannis Sgouros, a provincial governor elected on the PASOK ticket. Both have declared Sampanis innocent. The clash is taking place at a higher level too. On Monday, former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, in charge of sports and Olympic preparations under PASOK, accused the conservative government of being inert during the Kenteris-Thanou crisis and cashing in on PASOK’s work. «Mr Venizelos, as a former culture minister, has his own share of responsibility, which we will discuss immediately after the Olympic Games,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. Venizelos said: «As culture minister I have the political responsibility and especially the political honor for all the Olympic preparations during my term. In the same way, the current culture minister, who also happens to be prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, bears responsibility for his term in office, during which all the problems have emerged.»

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