Greek pair are cleared over missed drug tests

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The Independent Online

The Greek sprinters Konstadinos Kederis and Ekaterina Thanou were yesterday cleared by their national federation of missing three doping tests in the run-up to last year's Athens Olympics, from which both withdrew amid huge embarrassment to the home nation. But their coach, Christos Tzekos, is reported to have received a four-year ban from the Greek Athletics Federation (SEGAS) for his part in the affair.

The Greek sprinters Konstadinos Kederis and Ekaterina Thanou were yesterday cleared by their national federation of missing three doping tests in the run-up to last year's Athens Olympics, from which both withdrew amid huge embarrassment to the home nation. But their coach, Christos Tzekos, is reported to have received a four-year ban from the Greek Athletics Federation (SEGAS) for his part in the affair.

Tzekos, who was cleared by the federation of charges of distributing banned substances, was blamed for the athletes missing their tests. "The decision is very good," Tzekos said. "But someone has to pay. They say I was informed about the tests and the athletes were not. I can live with that."

Referring to the pair's failure to rendezvous with testers in the Olympic Village on the eve of competition, an incident which was swiftly followed by claims that they had both been injured in a motorcycle accident, the head of the SEGAS disciplinary committee, Kostas Panagopolous, said: "The charge of refusal without an explanation to take a doping test cannot be substantiated. In no way was he (Kederis) informed to appear for a doping test. The same goes for Thanou."

Kederis, the Olympic 200m champion in 2000, and Thanou, the 100m silver medallist in the same year, had faced a two-year ban after failing to show up for attempted tests in Tel Aviv, Chicago and Athens while preparing for the Games.

Kederis - who split acrimoniously with Tzekos during the Olympics - was also found not guilty of missing the tests in Chicago and Tel Aviv, while Thanou was found guilty of missing only the Chicago test.

The ruling leaves the International Association of Athletics Federations in an awkward position. "We are very surprised by the decision," said the IAAF spokesman Nick Davies. "Now we will be waiting to receive the full documentation and explanation."

Kederis, 31, and Thanou, 30, withdrew from the Games days before they were to race and midway through an IOC disciplinary hearing.

Both denied any wrongdoing but were suspended in December by the IAAF, which ordered the Greeks to hold a disciplinary enquiry. The IAAF can decide to appeal against the Greek decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Kederis and Thanou also face a criminal hearing in Greece over the missed drugs tests and have been charged with faking the motorcycle accident, which led to them spending four days in hospital.

Tzekos faces charges of importing illegal substances, including anabolic steroids, for his nutritional supplements company.

An IOC spokeswoman denied that the organisation had mishandled the affair. "The IOC were in the middle of a disciplinary hearing when the athletes chose to surrender their accreditation. From that moment it was their choice - they excluded themselves."

The athletes' claims that they had injured themselves in an accident while borrowing Tzekos's motorcycle was greeted with widespread scepticism. This latest ruling may stretch credulity still further.

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