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August 30, 2008

Don't mention the Olympics

Whilst my homeland has been enjoying a bumper Olympic haul and celebrating hosting the next Games, my adopted home of Greece has not been basking in the Olympic afterglow. Having sent their biggest ever contingent of athletes to an overseas Games, the Greeks returned with just four medals - their worst performance since 1992, and well down on the 13 and 16 picked up in Sydney and Athens respectively.

It was events off the field that bought most of the doom'n'gloom though. In the four months leading up to the Games and during them, fully 15 Greek athletes failed drugs tests, including Athens gold medal winner Fani Halkia, and 11 members of the weight-lifting squad.

And that's not to mention the long-running saga of Katerina Thanou, banned from appearing in Beijing by the IOC for bringing the Olympic Movement into disrepute for the missed drug test and motorcycle accident fiasco that preceded the Athens Games. For her part, she maintains that she has never failed a drugs test she actually attended.


There is talk of new legislation to cut-back on athlete's benefits if they are found guilty of doping offences. In something that sounds more like 50s USSR policy rather than a modern EU meritocracy, currently under the Greek system, it appears athletes who finish in the top eight in Olympic Games, Mediterranean Games, World Championships, Paralympics or European Championships are entitled, upon sporting retirement, to a guaranteed job in the police, army or civil service, and entry to University without having to sit exams.

Whether this proposed legislation will see the light of day is another matter. In 2005 Dimitris Vagionas was head of Greek's national anti-doping efforts, and he reported to parliament that Greece was one of Europe's leading exporters of anabolic steroids. The only action that seemed to follow was that he was forced to step down following death threats.

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the last statement sums it all up

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