Greek president praises Sofia Bekatorou for reporting alleged sexual assault

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  • Olympic sailing gold medallist alleges assault occurred in 1998
  • Katerina Sakellaropoulou praises athlete’s ‘brave revelation’

The Greek president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, met Sofia Bekatorou at the presidential palace in Athens on Monday. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian-Reuters

Greece’s president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, has praised the Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou for dissolving a potential “conspiracy of silence” by reporting a historic allegation of sexual assault by a sports official.

Bekatorou, who won a gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004, told the Greek edition of Marie Claire last month that she suffered the assault in 1998, when she was 21. Sakellaropoulou met Bekatorou on Monday and said her courage offered hope to other women in her situation.

“I hope her brave revelation will blow like a rushing wind and sweep any hypocrisy, any cover-up attempt away,” Sakellaropoulou said in a statement. “It is time to end the guilt of the victims and the impunity of the perpetrators.”

Although Bekatorou has referred the case to a prosecutor, Greek law would bar any prosecution after so many years. Since she made the allegations, however, other Greek athletes have also come forward and more recent cases may emerge as a result of the investigation.

Sakellaropoulou’s comments echo leaders across the Greek political spectrum, from the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to the opposition leader Alexis Tspiras, who in a rare display of unity have all voiced support for Bekatorou.

The response has also added growing pressure for more accountability from sporting federation officials with the Greek deputy sports minister, Lefteris Avgenakis, saying on Sunday that the government plans a bill to allow athletes to be represented on federation boards.

“We are determined to clean up this sector. The federation sector needs fresh oxygen,” Avgenakis said. The allegation by Bekatorou, who has not publicly named the official, has also prompted the Greek sports ministry to call for an investigation.

Bekatorou, who was the Greek flag-bearer for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, told an online conference last week that she did not open up about her abuse at the time, fearing that it would destroy her Olympic dream and divide the Greek sailing team. “Years later, having two children and thinking that other children would be in my place, I found the courage to speak up,” Bekatorou said.

 

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