News from Athens

23 August 2004

From the medical front, the big news to come out of Athens is the possible expulsion of the two Greek "hero-status" athletes, runners Kostadinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou, who did not report for their doping control test. "The disappointment experienced by the Greek team is palpable here with many of the Greek athletes refusing to talk about it," says UCT's Assoc Prof Wayne Derman, chief medical officer for the South African Olympic team, from Greece. Then late last week, it was reported that five weightlifters - six according to an unnamed insider - had failed drugs tests before the Olympics, and were likely to be shipped home. Derman and his team were busy with their own drug-related, although less scandalous, issues.

This included getting therapeutic-use exemption certificates, for the use of asthma pumps, for four SA athletes who suffer from the condition. The four underwent sophisticated lung-function tests, and all their applications were approved. The SA team also had to apply for an exemption for each medical agent containing cortisone, including ointments, creams, ear and eye, or nose drops. "It's getting harder to practice sports medicine in this setting with so many tough rules and regulations," quipped Derman.

After an inspired 2-1 win over Argentina, the SA men's hockey team, number 13 in the world, suffered two last-ditch defeats against India (2-4) and the Netherlands (2-3) last week. "We were within a minute-and-a-half of pulling off something special against a higher-ranked team than us, and we let it slip," commented UCT graduate and squad member Ian Symons after the India heartbreak. But despite the setbacks, off-time remains a pleasure in Athens and the Olympic Village, noted Symons. "Every convenience just seems to be laid out before the athletes." Symons is also doing plenty of stargazing - he rode a bus with Pieter van den Hoogenband, Michael Klim and Grant Hackett; attended with the rest of the SA team a workshop presented by legend Michael Johnson ; and shared breakfast with gold-medallists Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman.

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