Greek Sport Faces More Scrutiny

(ATR) Greek sport scandal uncovers new cases, criminal prosecution possible... 

Greece Flag Flying in Wind and Blue Sky
Greece Flag Flying in Wind and Blue Sky

(ATR) The spotlight put on Greek sailing by Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou’s sexual abuse claims is helping to uncover more cases.

A Greek sailing coach accused of raping an 11-year-old athlete was arrested on Sunday, according to the Athens News Agency. The 38-year-old unidentified man is believed to have committed the offense nine years ago.

Bekatorou had given evidence to prosecutors on this case last week. Unlike her own case, this one is still within the statute of limitations allowed by Greek law.

Bekatorou turned the world of Greek sports upside down by revealing during a virtual conference called "Speak Up" that she had been raped by the Vice-President of the Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) in 1998. The incident occurred in Spain, where Bekatorou had just qualified for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

She had already testified as a witness about the incident in November in an investigation regarding violence in the sports environment. She decided to go public after rumors from fellow athletes that the alleged rapist Aristeidis Adamopoulos is harassing adolescents nowadays.Bekatorou confessed she underwent several years’ treatment to get over the feelings of guilt, shame and anger before being able to speak up.

Bekatorou’s allegations provoked a domino of reactions even though her case can no longer be prosecuted. She received full support from her fellow athletes, particularly Nikos Kaklamanakis, a former sailing Olympian himself who had formerly accused the Hellenic Sailing Federation of mismanagement, corruption, nepotism and abuse of dominant position.

Kaklamanakis was adamant is his statement: everybody knew but nobody spoke, there was a culture of silence, "omerta" as in the Mafia. He claims he received death threats and was forced to train under the protection of bodyguards since 1999 for confronting his own Federation.

Hellenic Olympic Committee CEO Spyros Capralos, Lina Mendoni, the Minister of Culture and Deputy Minister of Sports Lefteris Avgenakis expressed their support and encouraged more athletes to reveal cases of harassment and break the culture of silence.

Bekatorou met with the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, a former judge herself. A declaration of support for Bekatorou was drafted by 756 female aquatics athletes.

Imminent figures such as the president of Piraeus Sailing Club Yiannis Papadimitriou have resigned out of indignation and disappointment towards the attitude of HSF, which initially issued a press release labeling the rape as an "unfortunate event". Public outrage forced the federation to issue a second more sympathetic note but it was too late to undo the damage.

The Greek government has suspended the HSF’s annual subsidy of 772,000 euro until further notice. The finances of the members of the Board of Directors are under scrutiny and elections for a new Board are set for March 14.

What is more the prestigious Stavros Niarchos Foundation suspended its funding to the HSF. The Foundation said in a letter that it would "completely cancel the grant unless it receives sufficient and satisfactory assurances, within 30 days, that these matters will be dealt with in a comprehensive and final manner."

A number of sailing athletes have addressed a letter of complaint to the International Sailing Federation and CEO David Graham contacted the HSF to express his concerns.

Written by Gerard Farek with reporting from Athens by Xanthippi Kyriazi

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