Athletics: Threat of ban still hangs over Kenteris

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The Independent Online

The coach of Kostantinos Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou insisted yesterday that he was happy to take the blame for the failure of the Greek sprinters to attend drug test appointments on the eve of the Athens Olympics as it emerged precisely why the pair had been cleared by their national athletics federation.

The coach of Kostantinos Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou insisted yesterday that he was happy to take the blame for the failure of the Greek sprinters to attend drug test appointments on the eve of the Athens Olympics as it emerged precisely why the pair had been cleared by their national athletics federation.

"I do not feel like a sacrificial lamb," Christos Tzekos maintained in the aftermath of Friday's decision by the Hellenic Amateur Athletic Association's decision to absolve Kenteris and Thanou but ban their erstwhile trainer for four years. "I am delighted with the result. As long as they are innocent, it is fine with me."

Both have cut their ties with Tzekos since the furore on the eve of the Games last August when they checked out of the Athletes' Village without attending drug tests and ended in hospital after allegedly being involved in a motorbike accident.

Whether Kenteris, 31, the surprise Olympic 200m champion in 2000, and Thanou, 30, winner of the 100m silver medal behind Marion Jones in Sydney, will get the chance to return to the international area, however, remains to be seen.

Although cleared by the Greek federation of having deliberately missed three separate drugs tests in the lead-up to last year's Olympics - in Chicago and Tel Aviv, as well as in Athens - Kenteris and Thanous still face the prospect of being banned. The world governing body of the sport, the International Association of Athletics Federations, expressed "surprise" at the verdict, but IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said that the documentation would be considered by the IAAF's doping review board and that the matter could be referred to the Court of Arbitration in Sport in Lausanne.

Kenteris and Thanou also still face charges brought by Greek prosecutors of deliberately avoiding the tests in Athens and of faking a motorbike accident.

Greg Loannidis, the lawyer representing Kenteris, spoke of his client having received "vindication" and urged that he "should now be given the opportunity he deserves to rebuild his career in the full knowledge that there is no stain on his character". Whether Kenteris will get out his rebuilding blocks, together with his starting blocks, however, seems unlikely.

Ultimately, the Greek federation's tribunal ruled that Kenteris and Thanou had not been properly informed of the tests required of them in the Athletes' Village, and that the call had instead gone to a third party, Tzekos. Citing the rules of the World Anti Doping Agency and of the International Olympic Committee, the tribunal ruled that they ought to have been given 12 hours in which to report to the authorities, rather than one hour, because they were not directly notified of their tests.

Tzekos was reprimanded two years ago for taking his sprinters to Qatar after notifying the Greek federation, for the purposes of drugs testing availability, that they would be in Crete. He was also banned in 1997 for "man handling" officials whoattempted to test a group of his athletes.

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