LONDON ÂÂÂ-Â Greece's world indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis withdrew from the London Olympics on Thursday after testing positive for the drug Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson used before the 1988 Seoul Games.
Johnson's fall from grace is still the biggest doping scandal in the history of the Games and humiliated a jubilant nation.
Joy over the Canadian's gold medal for a world-record 9.79 second sprint in the 100 metres, turned to an outpouring of grief and despair as the sprinter was sent home in disgrace one day later. Metabolites of the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol were found in Johnson's urine sample following his spellbinding victory over American Carl Lewis.
Thursday's withdrawal was the second blow in two days for Greece, birthplace of the Olympics. On Wednesday, triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou was withdrawn from the London team for a tweet about Africans in Greece that was slammed as racist, shocking a nation already reeling from a severe financial crisis.
"This is a bad day for Greek sports," Greek Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos told Greek SKAI radio.
"In these times that we are going through, we need Greek athletes to succeed, people are expecting success. When such a blow comes, it saddens and disappoints everybody."
Chondrokoukis, who was one of Greece's best hopes for a medal in track and field, will undergo a B test to try to prove his innocence after testing positive for stanozolol, his father and coach said. "I will fight - we will fight," his father, Kyriakos, said.
Chondrokoukis, 24, won gold at this year's World Indoor Championships in Istanbul with a personal best of 2.33 metres. His personal best outdoors is 2.32.
In Canada, Johnson's positive doping test was only the tip of the iceberg as an inquiry The Dubin Commission revealed a regular doping regime run by his coach, Charlie Francis and doctor, Jamie Astaphan. The commission, headed by Ontario Appeal Court Chief Justice Charles Dubin, examined the use of banned drugs in Canadian sport. It was established by the federal government.
Testimony during the inquiry led Dubin to criticize the testing policies and procedures of both the federal government and amateur sports associations in his report that was released in June 1990.
Canada then strengthened its testing practices through the creation of an independent non-profit agency in 1991. Canada is now considered a world leader in sport doping test practices.
Johnson, who was born in Jamaica in 1961, has always maintained that he was wrongfully convicted and that he must have consumed a spiked drink at the Seoul Olympics. Although he testified under oath that he took steroids throughout his competitive career, he told the CBC in 2010 he went off steroids 26 days prior to the 1988 Games and stanozolol wasn't part of his doping regime. Johnson said he took a designer steroid called furazobol, a staple of the old East German program.
Of the eight runners in Johnson's final, six have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, including American Lewis, the man who was awarded the gold medal and world record after Johnson was disqualified.
Greece's Capralos told Reuters the Greek Olympic Committee would not tolerate doping.
"We want to get many medals, however we want clean medals," he said.
Chondrokoukis's lawyer told Reuters he would never commit career "suicide" by taking banned substances days before the Olympics.
"How can it be possible that an athlete who is preparing for the Olympic Games, who won the world championship two months ago and who is being tested every week, has taken a substance that is also the most easily detectable in the banned substances list," said lawyer Yannis Marakakis.
Greeks suffering brutal salary cuts and tax hikes as the country struggles to exit its fifth year of recession were stunned to hear more bad news from an event many hoped would bring them some relief.
"It's shocking what's happening with Greek athletes and it will make Greece look even worse abroad," said Giorgos Mitsos, 71, an art teacher.
The news, just a day before the London Games officially open, was a stark reminder to many Greeks of the 2004 Olympics they hosted in Athens, the peak of an era of triumph and affluence that vanished in the wake of the debt crisis.
Greeks spent a fortune building venues that are now often unused.
The 2004 Olympic homecoming was marred when two top Greek athletes, sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, were banned for avoiding a doping test the night before the Games began.
Greeks pride themselves on having invented the Games in 776 BC as a sports festival to honour the god Zeus in ancient Olympia. The first modern Games were held in a marble stadium in Athens in 1896.
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