OPINION

Doping fiasco

The Games were hit by the least-expected debacle: The controversy surrounding the failure of Greek sprinting champions Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou to be present at an IOC drug test on Thursday grabbed the headlines and cast a shadow on yesterday’s grand opening ceremony – a show watched by about 4 billion viewers around the world. Reports praising the Athens Games in the foreign news media over the previous days were succeeded overnight by vitriolic statements about the efforts of the two famous athletes to dodge drug testers. We are not in any position to verify the rumors at this time. But the wave of speculation is, no doubt, justified. The recent events have created a strong impression, even among the most well-intentioned, that coach Christos Tsekos and Greece’s two top sprinters resorted to a very crudely stage-managed affair. Even if that is not the case, the damage to the Games has been done. Neither the government nor the Games organizers bear any responsibility should an athlete fail a drug test or violate the code of ethics. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the doping fiasco has tarnished the image of the Games, not just because of the bad publicity in the foreign press but also because of the major letdown for the Greeks just when they were ready to celebrate a grand event. We should not take comfort in delusion. Everyone knows that the use of banned substances is the rule rather than the exception among big track athletes. The relentless race for new world records and medals does not depend only on tough training but also on the use of performance-enhancing substances. It is also commonplace that champions are sponsored by big multinational companies which put pressure on the athletes in a bid to promote their own commercial interests. In other words, the commercialization of the Games has long taken its toll on Olympic ideals. None of this changes the fact that Greece is at the center of a scandal at the most unfortunate time. The fiasco was even more embarrassing given that Greece had promised to thwart such abasement and organize the cleanest Games in modern history. This is not the first time the Athens Games have been struck by phenomena of degeneracy. Everyone knows that the big winners of the Games have been the notorious conflicting interests which – under the noses of government officials – turned the construction of the much-needed infrastructure projects into a game of profiteering, causing the cost of projects to skyrocket far above initial projections.