Kenteris a favorite to light cauldron at opening

Updated: August 12, 2004, 7:27 PM ET news services

ATHENS, Greece -- The International Olympic Committee scheduled a hearing for Friday into why Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris, the reigning 200-meter champion, could not be found for a drug test in the athletes' village.

Another top Greek sprinter, Katerina Thanou, also could not be located for an out-of-competition screening.

Greek Olympic team leader Yiannis Papadoyiannakis told state-run NET television that, "There was no intention from the Hellenic Olympic Committee to hide anything. If there has been some kind of misunderstanding that's something different. Many athletes leave the Olympic village for many reasons, to enjoy themselves."

IOC President Jacques Rogge set up a disciplinary committee to investigate "the nature and circumstances of an alleged anti-doping rule violation committed by two Greek athletes," the IOC said in a statement late Thursday night.

The IOC cited the athletes for "unavailability for testing and failing, without compelling justification," to submit to testing.

  Is Athens safe? Will visitors be fleeced? And who will light the torch, especially if Costas Kenteris can't? Our Athens Insider offers some answers.
  • Burning questions

  • The IOC's Anti-Doping Rules for the Athens Games say doping violations include "refusing, or failing without compelling justification, to submit to sample collection after notification." Such a violation may lead to ineligibility for the games.

    After its Friday hearing, the panel will submit a report to the IOC executive board -- which is expected to rule on the issue the same day, said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.

    The Greek Olympic Committee said an IOC drug tester went to the athletes' rooms in the village Thursday evening but could not find them. Papadoyiannakis also searched unsuccessfully for the sprinters, the committee said.

    The head of the Greek track team, Yiannis Stamatopoulos, said the athletes had left the village to collect personal belongings from home. He said the athletes would return to the village and had asked for an extension to submit to the drug tests.

    "It seems (Kenteris) didn't turn up for a test which, to me, is absolutely stupid," an Olympic official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "If he didn't turn up, he's a fool and he deserves to be out."

    Refusal to take a drug test is considered the same as a positive test, which can result in a suspension. Simply missing a test carries only a warning, but three no-shows count as a failed test.

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

    Neither has tested positive for drugs.

    Kenteris was one of the biggest surprises of the 2000 Sydney Games, winning the 200 meters to become the first Greek man to win an Olympic medal in a running event since 1896. Thanou was the 100-meter Sydney silver medalist.

    Kenteris is Greece's best hope for a gold medal on the track at the Athens Games. He's considered a favorite to light the cauldron at Friday's opening ceremony.

    Kenteris, who also won the world title in 2001, has competed in few international events since his Olympic victory. He dropped out of the 2003 world championships, citing a lingering thigh injury.

    His rare appearances have frustrated fans and the Greek track federation, and led to rumors that he's trying to avoid drug tests.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.