Kederis and Thanou take easy way out

The disfiguring doping scandal involving Greece's two leading athletes, Konstadinos Kederis and Ekaterini Thanou, came to a messy conclusion here yesterday, as both jumped before they could be pushed, forfeiting their places in these Games "in the national interest".

The disfiguring doping scandal involving Greece's two leading athletes, Konstadinos Kederis and Ekaterini Thanou, came to a messy conclusion here yesterday, as both jumped before they could be pushed, forfeiting their places in these Games "in the national interest".

The pair handed over their accreditations an hour into their hearing with the twice reconvened International Olympic disciplinary committee, thus effectively removing their cases from IOC jurisdiction.

Their cases will now be considered by the International Association of Athletics Federations at a council meeting here on 26 August. "We will ask for all the relevant documents of both cases from the IOC," an IAAF spokesman said.

Both are now liable for two-year bans for evading doping tests. The IOC have added a request to the IAAF to take action, including possible sanctions, against the athletes' coach Christos Tzekos "and all other persons and organisations who may have contributed to the alleged anti-doping rule violations."

The pair are also facing prosecution over allegations that they misled the authorities by saying they were in Chicago training when witnesses have submitted statements that they were seen in Lechion, a two-hour drive from Athens. If convicted, they face up to five years in jail. They also face an investigation by local authorities which could leave them liable to a legal action to recover state support offered over the last five years.

Tzekos, from whom Kederis has distanced himself in the wake of last Thursday's failure to meet testers at the Olympic Village, also faces possible legal recriminations.

According to Greek media reports, the coach has been selling various dietary supplements and substances such as ephedrine, a narcotic on the list of banned substances, via the internet. Such sales by an athletics coach are in violation of a 1999 Greek law.

Kederis emerged from the hearing at the Hilton Hotel amid chaotic scenes to declare that he would not be defending the 200 metres title he won four years ago in Sydney. "With a sense of responsibility and in the national interest, I am retiring from the Olympics," he said.

It was a complete reverse of the stance he had taken 24 hours earlier when leaving the KAT hospital at which he had been detained along with Thanou since their reported motorbike crash soon after midnight on Friday, just hours after drug testers had failed to find them at the Olympic Village. On that occasion the 31-year-old from Lesbos had struck a defiant note, claiming: "After the crucifixion comes the resurrection."

Kederis added that he had no knowledge that he was required to submit to a test last Thursday, and that he was breaking his links with the man who has guided him to Olympic, World and European titles in the space of the last four years.

"I am no longer going to co-operate with my coach Christos Tzekos," he said. "I am adamant, I was never notified to go to the Olympic Village to take the test. Over the last four years, I have gone through over 30 tests with no problems. Greek officials and sporting federations are to blame for this case."

He added: "I will stop running for these Olympic Games. I will continue to run and participate, but not in the Olympics. Some people accuse me that I am using drugs. They do not know me well. Some other people have caused this mix-up."

Moments later, Thanou, also looking startled in the face of the massed camera crews that descended on the hotel, confirmed that she too had handed her accreditation back to the Games organisers.

"I came here today before the IOC committee to submit the facts," she said. "Some Greeks have accused me of taking banned substances but according to the IOC, there is no such issue. The people who are accusing me are the ones who stood by me for photographs after my victories - others do not even know me. It's very difficult for an athlete to withdraw from the Olympic Games, especially when they're in their homeland."

WADA, the world anti-doping agency, tried to test both athletes in Chicago earlier this month, according to IAAF sources. There is also an investigation into whether the two missed a test in Tel Aviv earlier this year.

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