Greek sprinters pull out week after missing test

Updated: August 19, 2004, 12:37 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou pulled out of the Athens Games on Wednesday, nearly a week after they missed a drug test and were later hospitalized following a suspicious motorcycle crash.

Police wrap up investigation into
alleged motorcycle accident
ATHENS, Greece -- Police completed Wednesday an investigation into the alleged motorcycle accident involving Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, who have pulled out of the Olympics because of a doping scandal.

The wreck supposedly happened Thursday night, hours after they missed a doping test at the Olympic village. They were hospitalized with cuts and bruises, which prolonged an International Olympic Committee probe into whether they evaded the test.

Both withdrew from the games Wednesday.

Testimony gathered by police included reports from two alleged eyewitnesses, the athletes, their coach, Christos Tsekos, and doctors. Kenteris said Wednesday he's no longer working with Tsekos.

Police will give their report to chief city prosecutor Dimitris Papagelopoulos, who will decide whether to re-examine witnesses or seek charges.

It is unclear what the charges might be. It could take weeks to call back witnesses for additional testimony.

The IOC will also receive a copy of the report, police said.
-- Associated Press
"I'm withdrawing from the Olympics,'' Kenteris said after meeting with the International Olympic Committee's disciplinary commission.

He also said he cut ties with his coach, Christos Tsekos, who had been suspended by the Greek Olympic Committee, along with the two runners.

The IOC's executive board went ahead with its hearing despite the runners' announcement and later decided to refer the case to the International Association of Athletics Federations. The IAAF will discuss the case Aug. 26 but will not rule until well after the games, said Arne Ljungqvist, the group's anti-doping chief.

The IOC referred the case to the sport's governing body because any immediate sanctions became a "moot point'' when the athletes withdrew from the Olympics, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.

However, "we had material which we think could have led to a sanction,'' said Francois Carrard, a legal adviser to the IOC's disciplinary commission.

Kenteris, the reigning 200-meter Olympic champion, is the country's most celebrated athlete and was Greece's best hope for gold in track at the Athens Games. He was considered a leading candidate to light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, but a Greek windsurfing champion got the honor instead.

The scandal overshadowed the Games' Opening Ceremony and shamed a nation in one of its most eagerly awaited moments.

"I declared all the facts of my case which state that I am innocent,'' Kenteris said. "I was never informed that I had to attend a doping test at the Olympic Village.''

Thanou was the 100-meter silver medalist in Sydney four years ago.

"The people who are accusing me are the ones who stood by me for photos after my victories; others don't even know me,'' she said.

"It's a very hard thing for an athlete to withdraw from the Olympic Games, especially when they're in your homeland.''

Both sprinters spent about an hour behind closed doors and emerged to a mob of reporters and television cameras. Neither runner showed signs of injury from the reported motorcycle crash.

The IOC commission has been looking into why the two athletes missed a drug test in the Olympic village last Thursday. A few hours later, they were taken to a hospital with cuts and bruises after they said their motorcycle skidded on a road. The police are investigating.

The commission twice postponed hearings while the sprinters were in the hospital, giving them a chance to defend themselves in person.

After referring the case to the IAAF, the IOC said it would investigate the sprinters and the coach again if they wanted to compete in future Olympics.

Under IAAF rules, athletes can be suspended for two years if they miss three drug tests in 18 months. The Greek runners are being investigated by the IOC for two no-shows since July 23, and the IAAF is looking into a third possible case involving Kenteris in Tel Aviv last month, Ljungqvist said. Tsekos could also face IAAF sanctions, he added.

The Greek Olympic Committee suspended the athletes and Tsekos on Saturday, pending a final decision by the IOC.

Afterward, the coach blamed the media for the athletes' decision.

"You have made what was a simple procedural issue, in my opinion, into a very serious issue, without there being a reason,'' he told reporters. "This has harmed Greeks, this has harmed Greece, this has harmed sports.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press