#MeTinSofia: Wave of support to Olympian sailing star after sex abuse revelation

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A senior official at the Greek sailing federation has been forced to resign in the wake of sexual abuse allegations by one of the country’s top Olympians, the governing body said.

The federation said Saturday it was “shocked” by the claim made by former Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou, which has sparked a flurry of revelations by other athletes.

Bekatorou, now 43, said she was 21 when she was subjected to “sexual harassment and abuse” by the senior federation member in his hotel room, shortly after trials for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Her claims, which sparked a social media firestorm, have been seen as a belated #MeToo moment after decades of silence by sex abuse victims.

The federation, which had initially demanded Bekatorou supply more details of her allegations before taking action, said in a statement it had “immediately requested the resignation” of its vice-president Aristeidis Adamopoulos.

It said Adamopoulos “is allegedly the person named by our Olympian” in a prior testimony to a prosecutor.

Two federation board members also resigned in protest at the stance of the organisation, which is to hold elections later this year.

Bekatorou, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games and bronze in Beijing four years later, is expected to speak to a prosecutor next week.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee has also called for an internal investigation at which Bekatorou and Adamopoulos — who represented Greek sailing on the HOC board — are invited to testify.

At a government-sponsored teleconference on sexual abuse on Thursday, Bekatorou said she ultimately decided to stay silent in order to keep competing.

Adamopoulos, who was also suspended as a member of Greece’s ruling New Democracy party, said late Saturday he should not be subjected to a trial by media, before giving his side of the story.

– ‘Respect my family’ –

“I call on the state, institutions and the media to first respect my family, my children and grandchildren,” Adamopoulos said in a statement.

A second sailor, Marina Psichogiou, also came forward late Saturday to say that a federation member “old enough to be my grandfather” made her an indecent proposal in 1993, when she was 20 years old.

Retired water polo player Mania Bikof had earlier said she had been forced to roll down her bathing suit to her waist so a medic could examine a shoulder injury, while ex-swimmer Rabea Iatridou said she had been groped by a doctor.

None of those complaints can be prosecuted as they occurred decades earlier.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he “stood by” Bekatorou and urged other victims of sexual abuse to speak out.

“It is time to uproot the violence of those in power against anyone in a weak position,” Mitsotakis said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

Sexual abuse by elite coaches and sports officials has come under scrutiny since gymnastics in the United States was engulfed in a scandal that led to the jailing in 2018 of team doctor Larry Nassar for multiple cases of rape and sexual assault.

*With information from Reuters and BBC

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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