Athletics: Conte's drug cloud looms over Greece

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The Independent Online

The release of documents from the federal grand jury hearing in San Francisco investigating the activities of the Californian nutritionist Victor Conte has cast a cloud of collusion beyond the United States and Great Britain, where UK Athletics will this week consider the case of Dwain Chambers, to the home of this summer's Olympic Games.

Among evidence made public in the wake of charges of distributing illegal steroids and human growth hormones issued against Conte and three other men (Jim Valente, Greg Anderson and Remi Korchemny, the coach of Chambers, who tested positive in August for the designer-steroid tetrahydrogestrinone) is an email sent by Conte to an unidentified coach warning that a test had been developed for a previously undetectable drug. Conte ends by adding: "We might also want to somehow get this information to the coach for the Greek athletes, xxxx and xxxx, so nobody tests positive."

The grand jury hearing was held in secret to prevent damaging publicity in the event of there being no case to answer, and for the same reason the identities of athletes have been blanked out in all the documents. But the Greek connection will intrigue the track and field world.

Only last year the Hellenic Amateur Athletic Association (Segas) ordered the sprint coach Hristos Tzekos to explain the whereabouts of Kostas Kenteris, the Olympic and European 200m champion, and Katerina Thanou, the European 100m champion, when he was seen working with them in Qatar after telling the Greek federation they were training in Crete. Under the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations, athletes must provide information of their movements for the purposes of out-of-competition testing, and the world governing body said the incident was "embarrassing" for the Greek federation.

It was not the first time the IAAF had questioned Segas about doping; in 2002 the IAAF's general secretary, Istvan Gyulai, complained that Greek athletes were not available for out-of-competition testing. Neither was it the first time that Tzekos had been in trouble; in 1997 he was reprimanded by the Greek federation for employing "strong-arm tactics" to prevent four of his athletes being tested.

Kenteris and Thanou rarely compete outside Greece, and the latter's 100m victory in the European Championships two years ago was greeted with contempt by the silver medallist, Kim Gaevert. "I cannot help thinking the gold medal should be mine," she said. "I don't think Thanou is clean. She's always hiding."