Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou saw her Olympic dreams dashed yesterday after a flurry of controversy surrounding her Twitter feed.
On Sunday, responding to news that mosquitoes in Athens carried the West Nile virus, Papachristou tweeted as @papaxcristoutj, “With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting homemade food!!!”
In addition to this tweet she composed, she also retweeted several tweets from Ilias Kasidiaris, a spokesman for the extreme right party Golden Dawn. Kasidiaris himself has fallen under intense scrutiny recently, after striking a female member of Parliament in the face and throwing water at another.
At first, Papachristou stood by her tweet, but eventually recapitulated and apologized for her actions. After calls from the Democratic Left for Papachristou’s expulsion from the Games, the Hellenic Olympic Committee announced that the hopeful was being “placed outside the Olympic team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.”
Was the organization right to ban Papachristou from competing? Should a young athlete be able to speak their mind without fear of such reprisals? Is this something we should pay closer attention to in the United States? What about for professional athletes?
Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine and the host of Edge of Sports Radio
David Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians and author of The Complete Book of the Olympics (Aurum Press)