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Officials confiscate 641 boxes from warehouse

8/21/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek officials found 641 boxes containing
food supplements with the stimulant ephedrine in a warehouse used
by Christos Tsekos, the coach at the center of a doping scandal
involving star sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, a
judicial source said Saturday.

A prosecutor and two inspectors with the National Organization
of Medicines, the Greek version of the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, searched Tsekos' offices and warehouse Friday and
took possession of the supplements.

The search was part of a probe into whether 2000 Olympic
medalists Kenteris and Thanou tried to avoid a doping test on the
eve of the Athens Games by staging a motorcycle accident. A Greek
judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the food
supplements -- which are unlicensed in Greece -- were ordered taken
from Tsekos last year but the coach got them back somehow. The
source also said a supplement sample was sent off for testing.

Officials first became aware of the Tsekos' connection to
supplements last year when a consumer complained about getting ill
from them. Tsekos was fined $18,300. Michalis Dimitrakopoulos,
Tsekos' lawyer, said all the imports were legal and there were
documents to prove it.

Ephedrine is used in weight-reducing formulas and other
medicines, and a version of the drug was linked to the death of
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. Some athletes take it to
get a short-term energy burst and to increase alertness, but it's
on the list of banned substances for Olympic competitors.

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. The sprinters have withdrawn from the Olympics, and
Kenteris has cut ties with Tsekos.

The Greeks have another problem in weightlifting. Leonidas
Sampanis, who won a bronze medal this week and took silvers in 2000
and 1996, has tested positive for drugs in an initial sample.

The drug scandals have become a national embarrassment,
according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Metron Analysis for the financial
newspaper Imerisia, found that 85.2 percent of those questioned in
a nationwide telephone poll agreed with Greek President Costis
Stephanopoulos, who said the Kenteris-Thanou problem was ``a great
embarrassment for the games.''

Slightly more than 70 percent of respondents blamed the athletes
for mishandling the situation and nearly 80 percent also cast the
blame on Tsekos.

Another 84.3 percent of Greeks questioned said
performance-enhancing drugs must be eliminated from sports. No
margin of error was given for the poll.

Concern about doping is so great that the Greek government plans
to introduce doping tests in national high school sports
competitions staring this fall, Giorgos Gourdovelis, the education
ministry's director of physical education, told the daily newspaper
Apogevmatini.

"We will aim to have more mass participation in high school
sports and at the same time have mandatory doping tests in the
national high school competitions,'' he said.