Greeks pass sprint saga on to IOC

Fate of 2 who missed test, got hurt, is due tomorrow

Athens 2004

August 15, 2004|By Alan Abrahamson | Alan Abrahamson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ATHENS -- In the latest twist to a bizarre saga that has captivated this nation, the Greek Olympic Committee voted yesterday to withdraw sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou from the Athens Games -- but only until the International Olympic Committee makes a final decision.

The move came after Kenteris and Thanou missed a drug test in the athletes' village Thursday, prompting the IOC to launch a "disciplinary commission." Early Friday, the pair were admitted to a suburban Athens hospital after a purported motorcycle crash; their injuries have been described as minor but they remain hospitalized.

Until this incident, Kenteris, gold medalist in the 200 meters in Sydney four years ago, had been perhaps Greece's most popular athlete. Thanou, his training partner, won silver in Sydney in the 100 meters.

The IOC is scheduled to consider the matter tomorrow.

Kenteris had been a likely choice to light the Olympic caldron Friday. Greek newspapers and others have since turned on the two sprinters, for having embarrassed the nation as it prepared to stage the Games for the first time in 108 years.

IOC president Jacques Rogge has made it plain that Kenteris' iconic status would play no role in the inquiry. "The Games are bigger than individuals," he said.

The Greek Olympic Committee's action came after a 5-1 vote -- the lone dissenter being the committee's president, Lambis Nikolaou, who is also a member of the IOC's executive board.

The vote gave the committee political cover, passing accountability to the IOC. But if it had been up to him, Nikolaou said, the decision would have been easy: "Immediately out."

Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, a lawyer representing the sprinters, denied they had broken doping rules. "The Greeks should know their champions are clean," he said.

Their trainer, Christos Tzekos, has been a focus of anti-doping officials for years.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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