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Greek Sprinters Hurt After Missing Drug Test

Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou sustain injuries in a motorcycle accident. The IOC launches an anti-doping probe.

August 13, 2004|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, Olympic medalists on the track four years ago at Sydney, could not be located for a doping test Thursday evening, officials said, sparking a wild sequence of events that could dampen Greece's medal hopes in 2004.

The pair's failure to appear prompted Olympic officials to launch an investigation. Then, well after midnight, there were reports that the runners had been taken to a suburban Athens hospital with injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.

Later reporters suggested that they did not suffer serious injuries. Details remained sketchy.

According to Reuters, the head of the Greek track and field federation, Vassilis Sevastis, told reporters standing watch early this morning outside KAT hospital in Athens' northern suburbs, "As you will understand, their psychological state was not good. It seems that it's not something very serious. Tests are ongoing. They will stay overnight in the hospital."

Kenteris, gold medalist in the 200 meters at the 2000 Olympics, was the first Greek man to win an Olympic medal in a running event since 1896 and is perhaps Greece's most popular sports hero. He had been considered a likely candidate to light the Olympic caldron in tonight's opening ceremony.

Thanou won silver in the 100 in Sydney. She is also immensely popular.

Neither has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

For years, however, both have been a focus of authorities in anti-doping and track and field organizations, Kenteris in particular.

After winning the 200 in Sydney, Kenteris did not run again until 2001. At the world championships that year in Edmonton, Canada, he won the 200. He has been seen infrequently since; he dropped out of the 2003 world championships in Paris, citing a leg injury.

Both Kenteris and Thanou train with coach Christos Tzekos. Over the last few years, his runners have appeared only at major championships, heading out infrequently onto the lucrative European track and field circuit.

Last year, track and field authorities complained they had not been informed that Kenteris and Thanou were training in Qatar when they were supposed to be working out on the Greek island of Crete. Anti-doping protocols require athletes to make officials aware of their whereabouts at all times -- to make no-notice, out-of-competition tests possible.

Under those protocols, missing a single test carries only a warning. Two no-shows count as a failed test.

On Thursday night, according to wire-service accounts, an International Olympic Committee drug tester went to the athletes' rooms in the Olympic village but could not locate either sprinter.

A few hours later, the IOC said it had launched a "disciplinary commission" to "investigate the nature and circumstances of an alleged anti-doping rule violation committed by two Greek athletes." No timetable was set for the IOC executive board to make a decision.

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