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Greek triple jumper withdrawn from Olympics over racially-charged tweet

By Jerry Hinnen | Staff Writer

Attention Olympic athletes: if you've got some racially-tinged humor to share on Twitter, you should really, really, really think twice before you hit the "tweet" button.

That's the lesson learned the hardest of all possible ways by Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou, who was withdrawn from the London Games Wednesday by the Hellenic Olympic Committee for this tweet. The tweet has not been deleted, and translated reads:

“The track and field athlete Paraskevi (Voula) Papachristou is placed outside the Olympic Team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement,” a HOC spokesman said in a statement confirming Papachristou's expulsion.

Papachristou issued an apology via Twitter before the HOC's ruling, to no avail.

"I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights," she wrote. "My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races.

"I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family."

Papachristou is still in Athens, having planned to travel to London a few days ahead of the start of the track and field competition.

Let's be up front: Papachristou's tweet by itself should probably not be offense enough to destroy a dream she's spent her entire life preparing for. Is it particularly sensitive? No. Is it clever, or funny? No. Should she have ever sent it? No, no, no.

But while the tweet's use of "at least" implies Papachristou isn't a fan of African immigration into Greece, it's also hard to find anything that demeaning or discriminatory in ithe tweet alone. A stern rebuke and maybe a fine should be punishment enough, considering what's at stake.

But there may be more at play than just Papachristou's tweet. Reuters reports that Greek political parties have demanded her removal from the team, a position that could be tied to her reported ties to far-right-wing, anti-immigrant Greek party Golden Dawn.

Regardless of the HOC's reasoning, though, the facts remain the same: Papachristou won't be in London because of one dumb joke. That's a shame for her, and for the Greek team, no matter how you slice it.

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