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Greece sexual assault case brings spotlight to Cyprus sports scene

Andri Eleftheriou
Andri Eleftheriou has filed a complaint with police

Sport shooter and member of Cyprus’ women’s national shooting team, Andri Eleftheriou, filed a complaint with the police on Wednesday saying she was sexually abused twice by the same man during international sports events.

She filed the complaint after a meeting with Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis who said she and the state would stand by Eleftheriou every step of the way.

Eleftheriou, who publicly talked about her experience on television back in 2018 and again last December, received more widespread attention after Greek Olympic gold medalist Sophia Bekatorou recently spoke up about her rape by a high-ranking Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) official back in 1998.

The Cypriot athlete had said that she had been harassed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and also in Peking in 2008 by the same man, who held an “authoritative position”.

Her story failed to receive any attention until Bekatorou came forward.

Bekatorou, 43, said she shared her experience to encourage other young athletes to speak out.

Eleftheriou had said “one swallow makes not a spring,” to explain why she had not proceeded with an official complaint at the time of the alleged harassment.

The professional shooter said people need support and others to come forward as well, because there must be other women who were also harassed by the man in question.

Though Eleftheriou had originally said she wished to put the incident behind her and focus on the upcoming Olympic games, after meeting with Yiolitis on the minister’s invitation, it was announced she had filed a report with the police about the incidents.

The minister stressed the determination of the state and herself to combat such incidents and called on all women who have suffered violence to file a complaint, without fear, noting that much progress has been made in the way such complaints are handled.

In a separate case, a Cypriot referee was excluded from an international shooting games event in South Korea in 2018 after a female colleague reported him for sexual harassment to the International Shooting Sport Federation.

He remained in his post in the country as there “was not an official report against him”, according to the president of the Cyprus Shooting Sport Federation Jovanis Savvides.

“The referee was dismissed from the game back then and returned to Cyprus,” said Savvides confirming that the man is still a referee in the federation.

Savvides who took over as president of the federation in December, shifted the responsibility to the former president Demetris Lordos, who according to him was also at the games in South Korea.

“The incident happened before I became president and I only heard unofficial snippets of the case,” he said.

When contacted to comment on the incident, Lordos said “I am not the president anymore and I don’t know or knew anything about it.”

Savvides said he contacted Eleftheriou to encourage her to proceed with an official report suggesting “we will stand by her decision, whether she decides to report it or not”.

In a written statement on Wednesday, a month after Eleftheriou spoke out for the second time, the federation said it will try to come in contact with the people who participated in those games to gather information in an attempt to “clarify the case”.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus Sports Organisation mentioned a complaint by the parents of a girl who accused a coach of sexual harassment two and a half years ago but said no other cases were reported.

Surely more incidents occur that were left unreported, the general director of the Cyprus Sports Organisation, Dr Mary Charalambous-Papamiltiadis told the media this week.

A committee of experts has been formed to create a guide focusing on eight guidelines that will help in the prevention and handling of harassment cases in sports. According to the head of the organisation, the guide is expected to be given to its members this week.

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