Olympic flame handed to Vancouver organizers
The IOC criticized Greek Olympic officials Thursday for allowing a hurdler serving a doping ban to participate in the Vancouver flame relay. IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said it was "inappropriate and a regrettable mistake" for Greek officials to let disgraced hurdler Fani Halkia carry the flame. Halkia won a gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She was expelled from the 2008 Beijing Games after testing positive for the steroid methyltrienolone, and received a two-year suspension. She denies any wrongdoing, and said that tampered diet supplements may have triggered the positive doping test. "It is clearly indicated in the guidelines applicable to the relay that the torchbearer selection should be in respect of the Olympic Charter and its principles," Moreau said in an e-mail. "For example, people who have had their Olympic Games accreditation removed and/or who have been found guilty of doping offenses should not be permitted to run as a torchbearer." The controversy arose as Greek officials handed over the Olympic flame to Vancouver organizers during an hour-long ceremony Thursday at Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern games were held in 1896. Greek Olympic Committee head Spyros Capralos presented the flame, lit last week at Ancient Olympia, to Vancouver Organizing Committee CEO John Furlong. After an eight-day trip through Greece, the flame will be flown to Canada in a 28,000-mile journey. Moreau said Greece's Olympic Committee, or HOC, was responsible for choosing torchbearers for the Greek leg of the relay for the Feb. 12-28 Winter Games. She said the IOC plans to discuss with the HOC its decision to include Halkia. HOC officials had no immediate comment.