Web Issue 2177 December 23 2004   
Greek sprinters edge closer to oblivion after IAAF move
DOUG GILLON December 23 2004
The biggest Olympic doping scandal in 16 years is grinding to its final chapter.
In contrast to their meteoric rise, the former Olympic 200 metres champion, Kostandinos Kenteris, and the 100m silver medallist, Ekatherini Thanou, are fading slowly before being sucked into the black hole of sporting oblivion.
The athletes, and their coach, Christos Tzekos, were provisionally suspended yesterday by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The latest step in the ritual dance of anti-doping formality was the world body's refusal to accept their written explanations for a raft of allegations. They have passed the case to the Greek track and field authorities, who will make the final decision.
They are likely to hand down a two-year suspension, which would effectively end the careers of Kenteris and Thanou, who are 31 and 29 respectively. However, they would have a final right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Tzekos has been charged with distributing prohibited substances and tampering with the anti-doping process, and a civil case against the trio is on-going in Greece, so a hearing by the Hellenic athletics federation may be delayed.
The IAAF, International Olympic Committee, World Anti-Doping Agency and the Greek police investigated after both athletes did not appear for a drug test before the Olympic Games, where Kenteris was to have lit the flame. Both subsequently withdrew, with the IOC ready to exclude them.
The investigation probed a motorbike crash and also revealed they had missed random tests in Tel Aviv and Chicago. Civil charges were laid against eye-witnesses and medical staff over allegedly falsified hospital reports when they spent four days receiving treatment. The Greek nation is hugely embarrassed by the fall of their two heroes. It mirrors the angst of Canada when the steroid charge of their 1988 Olympic 100m champion, Ben Johnson, was exposed.
Yet the scandal could have been avoided as the Greeks put Tsekos under scrutiny in response to a 1997 IAAF complaint. He prevented an IAAF anti-doping officer, Klaus Wengoborski, from testing four of his athletes.
Among them was Thanou, to whom he said he was engaged, although she later married a footballer. Another was Charalambros Papadias, winner of the 60m at the World Indoor Championships in Paris. Seven months earlier, his best 100m time was 10.27, and he could not get beyond the opening round at the Atlanta Olympics.
Suddenly, the unheralded 22-year-old clocked 6.50 to win the world 60m title, becoming the first white sprinter to win a global title since Scotland's Allan Wells won Olympic gold back in 1980.
Wengoborski was the IAAF witch-finder general. He had been responsible for catching former double world champion Katrin Krabbe, among others. When he later tried to test the Greeks, in their Dortmund hotel, they had simply disappeared.
The four athletes – it was never established if Kenteris was among them – faced two-year bans, but the Greeks only suspended Tsekos. If they'd applied the rules properly, they would not be squirming now.
Meanwhile, Austria's Stefan Koubek was suspended yesterday by the International Tennis Federation. He will serve three months after failing a drug test for a banned cortico-steroid, triamcinolon acetonid, which was discovered during the French Open in May.
Koubek, 60th in the world, said it was in an injection for a wrist injury. His results from the French Open are forfeit, as are his ranking points and prize money. He will miss the Australian Open and Davis Cup.
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