ATHENS – Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou’s allegation of a sexual assault in 1998 by an official of Greece’s sailing federation has led the Sports Ministry to urge an investigation and brought a groundswell of support for her.
Media reports in Greece said a prosecutor would also order a preliminary investigation in which Bekatorou was expected to testify as the case spread outrage across the country.
She did not name the person but media reports, including in Greece’s Proto Thema and CNN, said Hellenic Sailing Federation Vice-President Aristidis Adamopoulos, an official from the ruling New Democracy resigned his post.
He denied any wrongdoing but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis staunchly supported Bekatorou and suspended Adamopoulos’ party status as a member of the ruling party and Vice-President of the party's local organization in Eastern Attica, the newspaper also said.
After saying he had talked with Bekatorou, also praised her courage to speak out.
"Sofia bravely broke the chain of fear and silence, showing the way for the stigma of guilt to pass from the victim to the perpetrator. This way she became an Olympiad of responsibility, on behalf of us all," Mitsotakis said in a statement posted on Facebook.
She did not name him or give any details of what the alleged assault involved, the federation urging him to specify what happened although other media reports suggested it could be a case of rape.
Bekatorou, a gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics, referred to the incident during an online conference organized by the ministry and said she didn’t report it at the time because it would hamper her career and divide the team.
That was according to a transcript released by the ministry, said Kathimerini, a New Democracy-leaning publication which did not name Adamopoulos in its report on what she said and the aftermath.
In the decade after she said she was assaulted, Bekatorou said, “ I achieved most of my country's distinctions in sailing but have lost the most precious value of my personality: Loving myself.”
The federation said in a statement that it had not previously been informed formally or informally about the incident, and said she should be more forthcoming about what happened.
"We urge the complainant, if she took the initiative even after so many years to talk about this unpleasant incident, to become specific," it said, adding that it would do the right thing if the case falls under its competence.
Without the specifics being known it was also unclear whether if a crime had been committed that it could still be prosecuted under the statute of limitations with sex without consent not being acknowledged until June, 2019 when the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA reversed plans for lenient treatment of rapists after a furor.
AGAINST THE WIND
In a statement to Proto Thema, Adamopoulos denied he had done anything wrong or inappropriate and defended himself, saying reports identifying him as an assailant were “completely inaccurate, false, slanderous and insidious, as what Mrs. Bekatorou claims in relation to my face never took place.”
"It is expected that complaints against me made by a public figure, of great recognition and wide social impact, will gather public interest, create feelings of compassion for the complainant and disgust for the alleged 'perpetrator,'" said Adamopolous, reported CNN.
Bekatorou said the alleged assault took place in 1998 during preparations for the Sydney Olympics, that were held two years later, the news site added.
Now 43, Bekatorou said a male official performed a "lewd act" after inviting her to his hotel room to discuss preparations ahead of the Sydney Olympics. The athlete said the act was not consensual.
She made the allegation earlier this week at an online event organized by the Ministry of Culture and Sports about the protection of children in sport.
Bekatorou said she wanted to talk about her traumatic experience in the hope that young athletes would not be afraid to speak out.
"I said no, I repeated that I didn't want to go on and he used fake sweet talk and said it is nothing and trying to be funny," said Bekatorou.
"He said he would stop if I didn't want it but he didn't, no matter what I said to him. Crying and feeling ashamed I left the room when he finished and removed himself from me,” the news site report added.
The sailing federation did a fast about-face as anger grew and said it had demanded the resignation of Adamopoulos, who said he was being subjected to trial by the media.
"It is the minimal conquest of any democratic state governed by the rule of law and the corresponding obligation of institutions and the media not to target individuals, distribute their photographs, or to have already convicted the so called "perpetrator" before he is given the opportunity to speak and give his view on facts made public by a third party," said Adamopoulos.
Another senior sailing federation board member, Yiannis Papapiditriou, has submitted his resignation, in support of Bekatorou.
Reuters reported that IOC member and Hellenic Olympic Committee chief Spyros Kapralos said he would support Bekatorou with "all his might'" and called on other athletes to speak up.
"We need to have a safe, ethical, decent and pure sports environment," he said.