Olympic Winners assume blame for Halkia torchbearing fiasco

Greek officials were left red-faced yesterday after it became known that former Olympic champion Fani Halkia, banned for doping, had run a leg of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games torch relay in Greece. The Hellenic Association of Olympic Winners, which had included Halkia on a list of proposed torchbearers sent to the Hellenic Olympic Committee, said the blunder was due to human error. «This is an honest mistake and nothing else,» association president Giorgos Sigalas told Reuters. «It was my mistake for not checking the names on the list that was drafted here and sent to the committee.» «The Hellenic Olympic Committee did not spot it either, but at the end of the day the list was from us so I accept full responsibility.» It was not clear how her name was not spotted, as Sigalas said the list comprised less than 10 names of former Olympians proposed as torchbearers. Hurdler Halkia, a surprise gold medalist at the Athens 2004 Games, tested positive for the steroid methyltrienolone in August 2008 and was subsequently banned from track and field for two years by the sport’s governing body. Hours before the Canadian leg of the torch relay started yesterday for the February 12-28 Winter Olympics, it became known that Halkia had run part of the seven-day Greek leg. Her relay participation triggered the ire of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who said it was «inappropriate and a regrettable mistake.» «The IOC is not responsible for choosing the torchbearers – for the Greek leg of the relay it is the responsibility of the [Greek] Olympic Committee,» it said in a statement. «People who have had their Olympic Games accreditation removed and/or who have been found guilty of doping offenses should not be permitted to run as a torchbearer.»