Voula Papachristou was kicked out of her national team for mocking African migrants and expressing support for a far-Right political party.
Her offending message – which was referring to reports of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in her home country – read: ‘With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!’
The comment drew huge criticism from other users of the social networking site. One responded saying: ‘If you are serious, the Greek Olympic Team should put you on the first plane and send you back.’
Another wrote: ‘Xenophobic comments from a Greek athlete in the Olympic mission are unacceptable. We are ashamed.’
After initially insisting her comment had been ‘a joke’, the 23-year-old yesterday issued a lengthy apology. But she was still expelled from the team by the Greek Olympic Committee, who said her statements had been ‘contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement’.
Papachristou, who had expressed support for an extreme political party on Twitter by reposting their messages and videos, was not responding to requests for comment at her home in Athens last night.
But she said in a statement: ‘I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account.
‘I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.
‘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 apologise 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 apologise to my coach and my family.’
Her coach, George Pomaski, said the expulsion was harsh. ‘It’s too much, the penalty should not have been so strict,’ he said. ‘She has already apologised for her remarks.
‘She did something childish. I respect the decision, but it is a little harsh for a kid we are trying to educate. This is a big disappointment not only for her but for her family and for myself, and anyone involved in the Greek team.’
Papachristou had been described as one of the ‘sexiest’ Olympians by the Greek press. But her support for the far-Right party Golden Dawn made her a controversial figure.
She also posted personal messages to the party’s spokesman and member of parliament Ilias Kasidiaris.
Kasidiaris – who served in the Greek special forces – gained notoriety a few weeks ago when he assaulted two women MPs on camera during a TV talk show. Last Friday, the triple jumper tweeted to Kasidiaris saying: ‘Be always strong and true!’
When she was first criticised for her Twitter comments about Africans, Papachristou replied: ‘That’s how I am. I laugh. I am not a CD to get stuck! And if I make mistakes, I don’t press the Replay! I press Play and move on!’
Following her expulsion, her Facebook page was inundated with messages – with many saying she should not have been expelled.
Giorgos Simeonidis wrote: ‘I do not know whether this decision is best for a girl who has given her soul so many years in the sport and was one of the few hopes for Olympic honours this year.’
Orestis Origin wrote: ‘Should not have apologised after not doing anything wrong.’
But Lobos Djimah wrote: ‘Shame on you. The whole world has finally found out who you really are. Get some help!’
And Paul de Souza wrote: ‘You disgust me, you insulted two billion people on the planet because you thought so little of black people. Now look at your career. You should have studied harder at school.’
Isidoris Kouvelos, the head of Greece’s Olympic mission, defended the decision to expel her last night.
‘It’s the same as violating fair play,’ he told a Greek television station.
‘We are not just here to get medals but to promote the Olympic ideals, to show our character.’
He added that all Greek athletes would now be banned from ‘expressing personal opinions’ on Twitter until the games were over.