The methods pointed out by 22 former members of the Greek national team have been used since 1985.
Twenty-two former Greek gymnasts this week sent a letter to the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, in which they complained of having suffered decades of abuse “akin to torture” by their coaches. , reveals the daily EfSyn on Wednesday. In this letter, the gymnasts, men and women, evoke “hard and abusive” practices, the starting point of which dates back to 1985, including deprivation of food, psychological and physical punishment, as well as sexual harassment.
“For the first time, a large number of gymnasts are protesting massively against the psychological and physical abuse suffered by a large number of them”, declared the plaintiffs lawyer, Alexandros Adamidis. According to the contents of this letter, coaches allegedly slapped, kicked, pushed and threw objects at gymnasts in training, and even dragged some girls by the hair. Some of the athletes were forced to train while injured, they also say in the letter, which cites disciplinary measures such as training in extreme temperatures and bans on using the bathroom. Due to very strict weight loss requirements, some claim to have been starved to the point of passing out and secretly resorting to consuming toothpaste and leftover food.
Criticized, the Federation “alongside athletes”
The president of the Greek Gymnastics Federation Thanassis Stathopoulos, elected in March, said on Wednesday that he immediately called a meeting of its board of directors. “We are alongside athletes,” he assured the daily Kathimerini. “We will act with absolute respect for confidentiality and we will assess the weight of each allegation,” he promised. His predecessor Thanassis Vassiliadis, at the helm of the Federation for fourteen years, called on gymnasts to “name the culprits (…) so that they can be banned from this sport”.
A federation already criticized by active gymnasts, who recently accused it of not providing suitable training facilities. After the flooding last June of Greece’s main gymnastics hall at Agios Kosmas in Athens, 2016 Olympic ringside champion Lefteris Petrounias said the national team was forced to train in precarious conditions. “Every time it rains, we have to stop training. Our equipment is frequently damaged, ”he regretted on Facebook, before repair work was ordered.
Earlier this week, after an uneven bars rack collapsed during training at Agios Kosmas, Petrounias coach Dimitris Raftis told the Kathimerini daily that no federation official had inspected the room for years. “We’ve been saying this for years … but they didn’t take us seriously,” Dimitris Raftis told the newspaper.
“Middle Ages” direction
Noting that rodent droppings had been found in the gym, the coach called the previous management “medieval”. If the accusations of mistreatment in Greek gymnastics do not have the magnitude of the Nassar case – named after this doctor sentenced to life imprisonment for having sexually assaulted more than 250 athletes – in the United States, Greece is shaken in recent months by a wave of testimonies of sexual abuse in culture, sport and education.
More than three years after the appearance of the #MeToo movement in the United States, the law of silence in Greece was broken in December by a two-time Olympic sailing medalist, Sofia Bekatorou. Bekatorou said that at the age of 21, she suffered “sexual harassment and abuse” by a senior federation official in her hotel room, while preparing for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
The man she accused, and who had to resign from his post with the Greek Sailing Federation, denied these acts. Another case rocked the country, that of Dimitris Lignadis, the former artistic director of the Greek National Theater, who is accused of raping minors. Dimitris Lignadis, who was remanded in February, also denies the facts.