Probe expanded into sprinters' crash, coach

Updated: August 20, 2004, 1:45 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- The state drug agency searched an office and a warehouse belonging to the coach of two disgraced Greek sprinters Friday as an investigation into the pair's missed drug test intensified.

Two inspectors with the National Organization of Medicines -- the Greek version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- searched two buildings housing Christos Tsekos' food supplement company. They were accompanied by an unidentified prosecutor.

The searches were sparked by a probe into whether 2000 Olympic medalists Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou tried to avoid a doping test on the eve of the Athens Games by staging a motorcycle accident.

Kenteris, the 200-meter gold medalist at the Sydney Games, and Thanou, who took the silver in the 100 meters, could not be found at the Olympic Village for an Aug. 12 drug test. Hours later, they were in a motorcycle accident that kept them hospitalized for days.

The athletes deny taking banned substances, and say the accident happened because they were rushing back to the Olympic Village to be tested.

Earlier Friday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the drug agency was looking for unlicensed substances that were supposed to have been confiscated last year from Tsekos' company, following a complaint from a consumer who suffered an allergic reaction to a food supplement.

The warrant issued to the two inspectors allowed them to carry out a wide-ranging search to record any pharmaceutical substances in the Tsekos warehouse. The inspectors, accompanied by five police officers and the prosecutor, were seen taking at least one box from the premises.

Roussopoulos said the search was part of a broader investigation launched by the Greek health minister after the motorcycle accident "to find any evidence relating to doping in Greece generally.''

Prosecutor Spyros Mouzakitis will supervise the probe into whether there was criminal wrongdoing in the sprinters' case, receiving reports from traffic police, a medical examiner and others, judicial officials said. Doctors who treated the athletes also are due to give testimony.

Appointed by chief Athens prosecutor Dimitris Papagelopoulos, Mouzakitis is a more senior official than the prosecutor who oversaw the preliminary investigation. Mouzakitis has expanded the investigation to look more deeply into Tsekos' past.

Mouzakitis also is examining a possible Greek link to the BALCO laboratories in San Francisco, which allegedly supplied U.S. athletes with performance-enhancing substances.

Both Kenteris and Thanou withdrew from the games Wednesday. Thanou apologized to the Greek people for missing the games, while Kenteris fired Tsekos as his coach. Greek newspapers have lashed out at the pair, claiming the scandal has soured the long-awaited Olympic homecoming.

Separately, the Greeks suffered another blow Friday when drug allegations surfaced against weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, a bronze medalist at the Athens Games. He tested positive for drugs in an initial sample, a source close to the case told The Associated Press. A backup sample is being tested to determine whether the initial findings are accurate.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press