(ATR) The claim of a Greek champion in Olympic sailing that she was raped by her coach in 1998 is provoking national attention.
Speaking last week at an online conference organized by the Ministry of Sport, Sofia Bekatorou went public with her accusation for the first time. She said the coach committed lewd acts in his hotel room during a meeting meant to review planning for the Sydney Olympics. She was 21 at the time.
Bekatorou would win gold at the 2004 Olympic and bronze at the 2008 Games. In 2016, she carried the Greek flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,
"In this period, I achieved most of my country's distinctions in sailing but have lost the most precious value of my personality: Loving myself," Bekatorou is quoted in a transcript of her comments.
While she did not name the coach, Hellenic Sailing Federation vice president Aristidis Adamopoulos has since been identified in press reports as the alleged culprit. Rejecting a request from the sailing body to resign, he released a statement saying he would suspend his representation of the sailing federation at the Hellenic Olympic Committee while the case is being considered.
"The Hellenic Sailing Federation is shocked by the avalanche of revelations in the press made by our athlete, Olympian Mrs. Sofia Bekatorou," said the statement from the sailing body.
Hellenic Olympic Committee President and IOC member Spyros Capralos tells Around the Rings he issued a statement this weekend that condemns sexual harassment in sport.
"We are fully supporting Sofia and all the Sofias in our sportsworld and I encouraged the athletes to speak up and assured them that we will stand by their side. I also thanked Sofia for her courage to speak about this horrible experience," says Capralos.
He says the case has been handed to the HOC Ethics Commission. He says the Sailing Federation will not be allowed to participate in HOC activities until they have the decision from the Ethics Commission.
The Greek sailing federation released a statement in support of Bekatorou after an initial statement seemed to downplay thecharges. Two members of the federation are reported to have resigned in protest over the dismissive press release.
Criminal charges may arise, despite the length of time since the alleged assault. Bekatorou is to meet with the Athens prosecutor who has the power to bring a case forward.
Sources in Athens say other women may be stepping forward following Bekatorou’s allegations with their own accounts of abuse by sports officials.
The case has drawn the attention of Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. The two met Monday at the Presidential Mansion.
There’s financial fallout already for the sailing federation from the controversy. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation says it is suspending funding to the federation.
"SNF selects its grantee organizations placing high priority to the ethos and the character of their people, as well as to their effective administration and sound management," SNF said in a letter to the federation.
"Any suspicion of scandal concerning the operation of an organization and the behavior of its executives raises critical questions about the organization's ability to do its work, therefore cannot and should not be ignored."
Reported by Ed Hula.