Drug woes eclipse medals

It was a mixed day for Greece at the Beijing Games yesterday, as the country’s Olympians picked up their first medals but also discovered that a gold medalist from the Athens Olympics would be heading home after failing a doping test. Fani Halkia, the 400-meter hurdles champion from four years ago, confirmed that she had tested positive for a banned substance during a check carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) at a pre-Games training camp in Japan. Halkia held a news conference to express her innocence and said that she was «shocked and surprised» by the news. »My first thought was to give all my supplements, vitamins, everything to the Greek National Pharmaceutical Organization (EOF) so they can check them in case there was some way I could protect fellow athletes,» she said. «Recently, I have only been taking multivitamins. I cannot accept that there may be sick minds out there who would sabotage me,» she added. The suggestion that there was anything murky about the test results were discounted by the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Minos Kyriakou, who blasted Halkia. «I don’t believe they put something in her drink or vitamins. They always have the same excuse,» he told Reuters. «It would have been better if she had just stayed at home instead of dragging our country’s name through the mud.» Halkia reportedly tested positive for the anabolic steroid methyltrienolone, known as M3. In a disastrous year for Greek sports, 11 weightlifters, swimmer Yiannis Drymonakos and sprinters Dimitris Regas and Tassos Gousis have been caught using the same substance. Halkia had caused some suspicion in international athletics when she rose out of relative obscurity to win the gold in Athens. On a more positive note, Greece picked up a silver medal in rowing thanks to Dimitris Mougios and Vassilis Polymeros in the lightweight double sculls. The country’s first medal of the Beijing Games came in sailing’s Yngling class with the trio of Sofia Bekatorou, Sofia Papadopoulou and Virginia Kravarioti who won bronze. Triple jumper Piyi Devetzi also won a bronze with a leap of 15.23 meters.