FRIDAY , 29 AUGUST 2008
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No free ride for athletes
A new anti-doping bill will cut athletes' state benefits
THE RECENT doping cases of hurdler Fani Halkia, sprinter Tassos Gousis and swimmer Yannis Drymonakos, who all tested positive for methyltrienolone, have officials at the sports ministry frantically putting the finishing touches on a new anti-doping bill, which will be submitted to parliament in the coming weeks.
According to Sports Minister Yannis Ioannidis, based on the new legislation, athletes' state benefits will be trimmed in an effort to stamp out the use of illegal substances in Greek sports. The new bill will enhance the powers of the Greek Anti-Doping Organisation (ESKAN) and ensure that any checks for banned substances are conducted under its guidance.
Key among the bill's measures is that only athletes who finish in the top three places at the Olympic Games, Paralympics, World Championships, European Championships or Mediterranean Games will receive benefits that include posts in the army or police force. Until now, athletes who finished in the top eight could expect such rewards.
In addition, only athletes who have won medals at these competitions will be given positions in the public sector after their retirement, provided that they have never been accused of using illegal substances. These athletes will also no longer be allowed to enter Greek universities directly but will have to sit exams like all the other candidates.
Under the new legislation, the use of banned substances by athletes or the promotion of these substances by coaches will be classified as a felony rather than a misdemeanour. Any athlete who is found in possession of a banned substance will face prosecution. Strict penalties will also be imposed on those who make and supply illegal substances to sports federations and athletes.
If a team is found to be using banned substances en masse, then the board of the relevant federation or team will also be held culpable.
The new legislation will also apply to Greek athletes who train abroad.
General Secretary of the Hellenic Association of Olympic Winners George Sigalas hailed the proposed legislation, saying it is of the utmost importance to make an example of the athletes who fail their drug tests and punish them to protect Greek sports from being completely tarnished.
Meanwhile, disgraced hurdler Halkia and sprinter Gousis are set to be called in next week for questioning, possibly as suspects, by prosecutor Constantine Simitzoglou, who launched an inquiry to investigate whether the two athletes broke Greece's doping laws. In an unprecedented move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) handed over to Greek prosecutors the information it has collected on Halkia and Gousis, thereby effectively forcing authorities to investigate the case.
The role of Halkia's coach, George Panayiotopoulos, and Gousis' trainer, Theodoros Gatzios, will also be examined by the prosecutor. Sources said that the IOC may take legal action of its own against the two athletes. Panayiotopoulos could also face prosecution.
Vasilis Sevastis, president of the Hellenic Athletic Association and Isidoros Kouvelos, the head of the Greek team in Beijing, both gave evidence to prosecutor Simitzoglou on August 28. Sevastis said that an internal inquiry into the cases of Halkia and Gousis is due to start soon, while Kouvelos informed Simitzoglou about his actions when news broke that Halkia tested positive on the banned substance methyltrienolone.
Simitzoglou has also called in for questioning the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Minoas Kyriakou.
In a statement released by Halkia's lawyer, George Agiostratitis, both she and
her coach deny using banned substances. Agiostratitis has warned that his
client will use all the legal means available against anyone who resorts to
slanderous allegations regarding her.
, 29/08/2008, page: A06
, 29/08/2008, page: A06
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