Ephedrine found in Tsekos warehouse

Updated: August 23, 2004, 4:04 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Small amounts of anabolic steroids were found in a warehouse used by the coach of two Greek sprinters at the center of a doping scandal, government officials said Monday.

The search of coach Christos Tsekos' facilities last week was part of an investigation into whether 2000 Olympic medalists Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou tried to avoid a doping test on the eve of the Athens Games.

A prosecutor and two government inspectors confiscated 641 boxes of food supplements and found that more than 1,000 of the supplements listed ephedrine as the main ingredient.

Also found was a small batch of medicine with steroids that came from the United States, Bulgaria and Germany, according to Greece's National Organization of Medicines, its equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It didn't say what kind of steroids they were.

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.

Tsekos' lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said the supplements in the warehouse were legal.

"There is nothing illegal and nothing prohibited in the containers that Mr. Tsekos' company imports," he said.

"An investigation is ongoing from the responsible ministries and the judicial probe is ongoing, the findings from the judicial probe are going to the prosecutor. The next steps will be decided by the government and the government will announce them at the appropriate time," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.

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 suspicious motorcycle accident that kept them hospitalized for four days.

The athletes denied taking banned substances, and said the accident happened because they were rushing back to the Olympic village to be tested. The sprinters later withdrew from the Olympics, and Kenteris cut ties with Tsekos.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press