Question marks

Listening to our Olympic medal winners express their support for Greek sprinter Costas Kenteris makes one question the reasons prompting them to go against the tide. More question marks were raised as cries of «Kenteris, Kenteris» were heard from Greek spectators across the Olympic stadium during Wednesday’s 200-meter semifinals. The incident took place in the face of media condemnation, government threats to strip Kenteris of various privileges, and an ongoing criminal investigation. Kenteris and his training partner Katerina Thanou are not the victims of some dark conspiracy. They are mature enough to be held accountable for their actions. Even their most enthusiastic supporters thought the motorcycle crash was a badly staged cover-up. Their foolish and provocative efforts to dodge the IOC tests dealt a heavy blow to their image and their country. Why did so many people choose to ignore this and show solidarity with Kenteris? Why did the doping allegations and his violation of fair play fail to make people shun the former champion? It was not just out of respect for a great athlete. More importantly, people know the long hard road that champions must take and thus feel condemnation is unfair. In addition, they know that the use of performance-enhancing drugs is the rule among top-class athletes. Winning medals is not a question of hard training alone. And, until recently, officials and the public preferred to turn a blind eye. The Athens Games have set a new record. Never before have so many athletes been disqualified for violating doping regulations, clear evidence that the IOC is taking steps to tackle the evil. That is welcome but the IOC will have to shake off suspicions of being highly eclectic with doping tests. If there is the will to crack down on doping, the IOC must take convincing measures. The future will tell.

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