Weightlifting coach under a shadow

A childhood photograph of weightlifting coach Christos Iakovou shows him at the age of 10 raising a bar with pieces of concrete at each end. Fifty years later, Iakovou has been suspended as coach of the Greek national team and is fighting allegations that he supplied members of the national team with spiked food supplements. The Greek Weightlifting Federation (EOAB) has accused Iakovou of not following procedures that require all supplements given to weightlifters to be approved by the federation. From the age of 10, he was hooked by the sport. Back then, it was only in East Germany that athletes knew the meaning of anabolic steroids. In 1979, Iakovou talked about «mysterious little pills» the national team were taking and accused the assistant of the then federal coach of giving him some of those little pills. But two years earlier, in February 1977, according to an official document of the World Weightlifting Federation, Iakovou himself had failed a doping test with levels «a little above the accepted limits» in an Athens championship. There are those who have linked the two incidents, remembering that at that time there was a battle raging for control of the Greek weightlifting federation and anyone tainted by even a whiff of suspicion would lose the battle. Eventually Iakovou gave up the sport and left for the US. After his return to Greece in 1989 to take up the position of national coach, the team won a total of 260 medals. Until Iakovou took over the national team, the Greek weightlifters’ slogan had been «clean and last.» Iakovou however has had a different philosophy – that shared by all coaches of Olympic champions the world over. «When I was a kid,» he once said, «I took up weightlifting because I believed you can gain a lot in life if you are stronger than everyone else.» What he didn’t count on, however, is that in Greece, where people love to bring their heroes down to earth, when you are stronger than everyone it is only a matter of time before you become a target.

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