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Fourth-Place Medal

Banned Greek triple jumper ‘bitter and upset’ after racist tweet gets her kicked out of Olympics

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

(AP)

The Greek triple jumper expelled from the Olympics for sending a racist tweet about African immigrants and the West Nile virus is speaking out against the decision to ban her from competition in London.

Voula Papachristou was left in Athens by the Hellenic Olympic Committee after sending a tweet that read, "with so many Africans in Greece at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food." Her comment generated a minor uproar in Greece, then became an international story when Greek officials decided to kick her off the Olympic team.

[ Photos: Greek athlete Voula Papachristou ]

The triple jumper issued a wide-ranging apology after the ruling was announced. Her tone turned defiant on Thursday when she spoke with Reuters about the decision:

"I have not slept at all and to be honest I am still trying to come to terms with what has happened. I am trying to stay calm otherwise I would lose control.

"I am thankful to my coach and family and so many other people who have stuck by me.... After so many years of hurt and sacrifices to try and get to my first Olympics I am very bitter and upset. But what has upset me the most is the excessive reaction and speed of the disciplinary decision."

Though it's probably not best to talk about how you may "lose control" -- I don't think that's taught in Crisis Management 101 -- Papachristou has a point. The reaction was excessive and the speed with which it was made suggests undue haste. It's strange; Greek officials are usually so prudent and judicious in their decision making.

[ Related: Greek athlete expelled for racist tweet ]

She should be angry. There have been no reports of Greek Twitter guidelines or rules of conduct for athletes. Officials appeared to make an arbitrary decision based on political pressure. They said they banned Papachristou because they didn't want to "place Greece in a very negative light." The thing is, nobody would have known about this had they not banned her. It was an isolated story with no legs. Now it's in its third news cycle.

Papachristou can be angry, but she can't be surprised. When you make a statement that touches on race or religion or gender in a controversial way, the hammer can be dropped quickly. Even if her tweet wasn't racist, it was perceived that way and that may as well be the same thing.

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