Former Greek sprinter, Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, jailed for stealing £12m

Simon Turnbull
Sunday 03 March 2013 01:00

Another week, another international sprint star embroiled in courtroom drama. Vassilis Papageorgopoulos might not be as big a name as Oscar Pistorius in the metaphorical sense these days, but in the 1970s he was one of the fastest men on the planet, joint holder of the European 100m record and twice a medallist behind double Olympic champion Valeriy Borzov at the European Indoor Championships.

Indeed, "The Flying Doctor", as the former medical student was christened, remains the only Greek to have won more than one medal at the European indoors – a 50m bronze in Grenoble in 1972 and a 60m silver in Munich in 1976. Now 65, on Wednesday the erstwhile sporting hero suffered a legal backlash after his country's economic and administrative meltdown as he was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of embezzling almost $18m (£12m) in state funds.

A court deemed that the local authorities in Thessalonica, Greece's second-largest city, had set up an "embezzlement machine" and that Papageorgopoulos, as the city's mayor, "had been aware of the whole plan but had stayed on the sidelines, feigning ignorance". A prominent member of the right-wing New Democracy party who lead Greece's fragile coalition, he is expected to appeal.

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