OPINION

Guilty officials

Ten days after Greek sprint champions Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou failed to show up to take an IOC drug test, growing evidence shows that the embarrassing machinations of the two athletes were not the worst symptom of the drugs plague in Greek athletics. The doping fiasco has tainted the country’s finest hour, but had the authorities been proved to be unconnected to the issue, the scandal would have been limited to the top sprint duo: Kenteris and Thanou would have been neither the first nor the last athletes to be mired in a doping controversy. Unfortunately, the case is not that straightforward. Evidence shows that the country’s athletic authorities tolerated or even covered for the hide-and-seek game by the Greek athletes with the international anti-doping officials. They helped the Greek champions to mislead IOC doctors about their whereabouts and provided protection when these complained about the issue. Everything seems to indicate that Greek sports officials systematically turned a blind eye to the use of banned substances by our athletes and disregarded commitments for clean sporting events – all for the sake of the prizes, the glory and the sponsorships from the medals and top performances. To be sure, Greece is not the only country facing cases of doping. Not everyone in the IOC and the foreign federations has a clean record. But efforts are being made to clean up sports. In Greece, on the other hand, officials did not appear to be bothered about the systematic dodging of doping controls, while political and sports officials chose to snub increasing international warnings – moreover, at a time when Greece was set to host its own Olympics and should have taken every measure to avoid embarrassment. Such indifference – with its painful repercussions – is not only to be found in Greek sports. Unfortunately, the sports world has been plagued by a habitual lack of ethics and the strong penchant for money and vanity which characterize public life in general – from the public construction scandals to the tacky display of wealth in the celebrations staged by the organizers. Greece, a country always capable of the best – as seen at the Euro soccer championships in Portugal, the transformation of Athens for the occasion of the Games’ homecoming and the opening ceremony, a splendid display of culture and history – is now tarnished by an eponymous minority that has lost all sense of morality. This horrible plague is putting the brakes on every major national effort. It must be fought – at all levels.