What do Greek sports suffer from? That was the question of the discussion entitled "Greek Sports: A stable value or a fragile showcase," featuring famous Greek athletes, the head of the Hellenic National Council for Combating Doping and the famous sports journalist Filippos Sirigos at Onassis Home of Letters and Fine Arts.
"Sports are a necessity for all ages and absolutely mandatory for children, because it replaces games with exercises. And because they socialize the child, sports help the psycho-social development of children. The most important lesson they learn is the effort and the outcome of a contest: win or loss.
Of course, doping is at the highest level of the sports pyramid. Competition is strong there and the athlete's goals change. Talent and efforts are needed to get there. And there is the commercialization of sports success. "An athlete experiences many hardships and changes in his or her private life. He or she cannot go out every night, cannot eat whatever he or she likes, and some athletes cannot be exposed to sun or bathe in the sea," said Hara Spiliopoulou from the anti-doping council. At the same time ,the dangers of professional sports are many. Victory becomes an end in itself, it leads to obsession, and doping is the next step.
According to the doctor, in many cases, the athletes do not know what they are taking and they have been persuaded by other people to do that. "They become test animals, because they often use substances whose effects are not known. Not to mention how dangerous it is for children who are forced to take large amounts of iron for example. I really do not know how they will manage to get rid of them while growing up."
Who are to blame? First are the parents, many of whom ask what substances they should give their children to improve their performance. Next are the coaches, who promote the doping in order to justify their salaries and fame as well as the doctors and all who are in the team, and the internet where you can buy everything.
The media also does not help when they are not sufficiently critical of athletes taking doping substances. In addition, some sports federations and the people there are just trying to run away from the facts. The last culprit is the state itself that creates laws, which it cannot apply. "When you consider a felony the provision of a prohibited substance to any athlete, especially a child, but you never sentence anyone for this, the whole procedure is self-denying."
Filippos Sirigos spoke about the doping. He had become the object of a physical attack after his critical position regarding the athletes captured for using prohibited substances. He presented all the "plagues" that are killing the Greek sports.
"If we look at the glorious Greek basketball, we will see that it rests on solid foundations. First, it is because the first group of the championship involved just 13 teams and because they all, except for Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, have faced serious difficulties. Next year will be even more difficult.
It is assumed that what applies to basketball, applies to all other team sports: football, water polo and handball. In fact, we are at the end of an era full of self-delusions, which began with the hosting of the Olympic Games in 2004 if not earlier."
According to the sports journalist, instead of spring the Games have brought severe winter to the Greek sport. "This combined with the economic crisis, which cannot be seen separately from the megalomania of the Games, and the spirit before and after the Games."
Filippos Sirigos said the beginning of the decline of Greek sports was the moment when medals were seen as the only aim, which created careers not only in sports but also outside. "Where do we start and where do we stop? From boundless "Hellenization" of athletes who promised success without substantial meaning? From the systematic use of prohibited substances and methods, for which Greece has drawn international humiliation? From the obvious involvement of the state in all this and the continuous attempts of concealing all controversial cases? In our efforts to invest in sports and to make propaganda through it, we copied the tragic experience of East Germany in many ways. On the one hand, the state promoted incentives for "the chosen ones" and on the other hand, it pretended to supervise any breach, which had actually begun precisely from these incentives: cash rewards, public positions, securing a full existence, provided by the State itself."
The journalist said that the doping cases should not be regarded as distant past. "Particularly with regard to individual sports, the common belief is that you have no chance against global competition without the so-called "scientific support".
He added that before the Beijing Games, he had said in public that most of the money the state gave the federations to train the athletes was spent on the development of group programmes for doping. "The audience looked at me as if they were looking at a madman. And the then Minister Michalis Liapis together with them, who did not hide his displeasure. After a month, the doping scandal in the weightlifting team broke out."
The two other "wounds" of Greek sports in his opinion are the violence between fans and betting. "Violence is the work of criminal gangs that simply hide behind the team logos and gambling sponsors with their huge revenue all those who not only survive but live richly by fixing sports results."