Sprinters suspended for missing drug tests


ATHENS, Greece -- Star sprinters Kostas Kenteris and
Katerina Thanou were suspended Saturday from the Greek Olympic team
for missing drug tests, but their fate was left in the hands of the
International Olympic Committee.

The Greek committee's seven-member board removed the athletes
pending a final decision by the IOC at a hearing Monday. The
sprinters' coach, Christos Tsekos, was also suspended.

The case has shamed Greece and overshadowed the opening of what
was supposed to be a triumphant showcase of national pride and
achievement at the Athens Games.

Making the situation worse, police are now investigating a
suspicious motorcycle accident that put the two in the hospital
Thursday night just hours after drug testers failed to find them in
the Olympic Village. The runners sustained cuts and bruises, and
were to be released Monday.

Kenteris, the reigning 200-meter champion, is the country's most
celebrated athlete and was its top hope for a gold medal in track.
Thanou, the 100-meter silver medalist in Sydney four years ago, is
his training partner.

Greek committee president Lambis Nikoalou said he wanted the
sprinters to be expelled immediately but was out-voted.

Tsekos, who attended the meeting, said he and his runners hadn't
broken any rules.

"There is nothing for us to be afraid of," he said.

Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, a lawyer representing Tsekos and the
sprinters, called the decision a one-day "compromise" until the
IOC hearing.

"Our champions are clean," he said. "There has been no
violation of the doping regulations. They have nothing to hide.
They have done nothing wrong."

The police want to make sure. They have begun a preliminary
investigation into the motorcycle wreck, which includes checking
out the pair's initial statement that an unidentified man happened
by the crash and drove them 18 miles to the hospital.

Investigators have failed to find the driver or any signs of a
wreck, and officers who canvassed the neighborhood were unable to
locate witnesses who saw or heard the crash, police sources told
The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Abraham Orphanopoulos, who owns a kiosk at the site, told
reporters: "I was in my kiosk and saw nothing."

The IOC, meanwhile, is investigating whether the sprinters
deliberately missed the drug test. A hearing, originally scheduled
Friday, was postponed 72 hours because the athletes said they
couldn't attend because of their injuries.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Saturday's suspension of the
athletes didn't change the situation.

"The IOC will continue with its procedures Monday," she said.

If the committee finds them guilty of a doping violation, they
would be declared ineligible for the games.

Kenteris, a surprise winner at the Sydney Olympics, had been
considered a favorite to light the cauldron at Friday night's
opening ceremony, an honor that went to former Olympic windsurfing
champion Nikolaos Kaklamanakis.

Kenteris and Thanou have a history of being hard to find for
drug tests and rarely run in international competitions outside the
games. Neither has tested positive for drugs.

IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said drug
testers unsuccessfully tried to find Kenteris and Thanou a few days
ago in Chicago, where they had been training with Tsekos. Nick
Davies, spokesman for the International Association of Athletics
Federations, said the sprinters changed plans and traveled to
Essen, Germany, to see a doctor.

Last year, Kenteris and Thanou missed an out-of-competition drug
test -- they were in Qatar after telling anti-doping officials they
would be training on the Greek island of Crete.

IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai said Kenteris passed two
out-of-competition tests in the past 10 months, and Thanou passed
two tests in the last seven months.

Kenyan boxer appeals
The Kenyan team filed appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Saturday against the expulsion of boxer David Munyasia.

The bantamweight was barred Tuesday by the IOC after testing
positive for the banned stimulant cathine in an out-of-competition
screening in the Olympic village.

IOC officials said cathine is a common drug in east Africa and
is found in khat, a leaf that is chewed for its amphetamine-like

Munyasia has already returned to Kenya. The appeal will be heard
by the end of the weekend, Reeb said.