Truth must shine

The organizers’ main concern during the previous months was whether venues and infrastructure projects would be ready on time for the Games. Olympics officials were also concerned about unexpected snags in crucial areas, such as the power grid, telecommunications and television coverage. In the end, the Games were struck by a completely different glitch. The doping controversy involving Greek sprint champions Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou cast a long shadow on the Games. The enthusiastic comments in the foreign news media about Athens’s splendid opening ceremony and the Games’ organization in general quickly gave way to vitriolic (albeit justified) remarks on the two athletes’ embarrassing bid to dodge an IOC drug test. It is worth noting that the Greek public, which has exalted the sprint duo in the past, has backed calls to clean up athletics, despite the heavy cost that this could entail. And, to be sure, people have no intention of taking comfort in flimsy excuses that insult their intelligence. They want to see sports purged of drugs, even if they all know that the use of banned substances is the rule rather than the exception among top athletes. The relentless quest for new records and more medals is not just a question of training but also of using illegal substances. The bitter truth about drugs also seems verified by the fact that Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis also tested positive yesterday. It would be premature to draw any final conclusions but it appears that Christos Tsekos is not the only coach to supply his athletes with drugs. Testosterone, the substance detected in the case of Sampanis, who won the bronze Monday in the men’s 62-kilogram category, is also produced by the body itself and therefore one cannot be perfectly certain about the causes. In any case, there are growing signs that, at least in certain sports, the champions’ assembly line is corroded by the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Looking into the near past, it is easy to find big sports stars who shone brightly just once in the sporting firmament. This strengthens the impression that they were burnt out by their trainers’ ardor to put them on the winners’ podium. Out for respect for the code of ethics, Kathimerini will make no blanket generalizations. But we insist on the need to address the issue. Raising protective barriers is futile and morally reprehensible. The campaign for a clean Olympic Games is worth every bit of support, even if it holds letdowns in store. Besides, doping tests have resulted in the suspension of many top athletes from the United States, no less.

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