Greece Officially welcomed the world to the 28th Modern Olympics with a fixed grin last night as the embarrassment of having its two top athletes embroiled in a doping controversy deepened.
The Greek National Olympic committee is due to hold an emergency meeting today to consider whether its Olympic 200m champion Konstantinos Kederis, who faces a two-year ban after missing a statutory doping test in the Olympic Village on Thursday along with his training partner Ekaterini Thanou, should withdraw from the Games.
Kederis and Thanou, meanwhile, remain in an Athens hospital after reportedly sustaining minor injuries in a motorcycle accident in the early hours of yesterday morning. Both were summoned to an International Olympic Committee disciplinary commission yesterday, but were allowed to postpone their hearing until Monday after a team manager arrived with two medical certificates. A news release maintained: "Kederis is sporting a neck brace, while Thanou is weak and has dizzy spells."
The IOC's president, Jacques Rogge, confirmed yesterday that it was the policy for athletes to be accompanied by testers during the period when they were required to produce samples. This, he said, was to avoid athletes replacing their urine by a process of catheterisation. He added that it was also possible for athletes to clear their blood of illegal traces by using "certain products."
The Greek public has been shocked by a bizarre sequence of events involving two athletes who have aroused suspicion in the world of track and field for their habitual avoidance of competing on the European circuit and a history of questionable behaviour with regard to doping regulations. National newspapers articulated the general mood yesterday, with one banner headline pleading: "Tell Us The Truth - You Owe It To All Greece To Prove You Are Clean."
Should Kederis and Thanou, the European 100m champion, appear before the disciplinary commission on Monday, it is hard to see where their defence will lie. Rule 5.5.2 in the IOC's anti-doping rules which apply at these Games states: "Any athlete...who is unavailable for testing on two attempts during the period of the Olympic Games (July 30 - August 29) shall be considered to have committed an anti-doping rule violation."
It is the responsibility of the athlete and their national federation to keep the authorities notified of their location at all times. An IOC official commented yesterday: "There have to have been two tests missed in that time for it to have become an issue."
Meanwhile Istvan Gyulai, secretary general of the International Association of Athletics Federations, was reported as saying that the pair had missed a test in Chicago this week after make their return to Athens a day earlier than expected.
Monday's announcement by the Greek Olympic team manager Yiannis Papadoyiannakis that Kederis and Thanou were in the US city and would miss the opening ceremony caused surprise among reporters who expected the Olympic champion to light the cauldron.
The statement was later withdrawn and by Wednesday no one within the Greek team would confirm or deny the athletes' whereabouts. When they arrived in Athens on Wednesday, their coach, Christos Tzekos, said Kederis had stopped en route in Germany in order to "visit his orthopedic surgeon".
The two Greek champions checked into the Olympic Village the following afternoon, but when IOC drug testers arrived, they were discovered to have left.
The testers, who are required to stay for no less than two hours in any location, demanded an explanation But when IOC drug testers visited, Kenteris had vanished. They approached Papadoyiannakis, who, by his own account, did not know where the athletes were.
The officials accompanied Papadoyiannakis, who refused to believe the sprinters had come and gone without permission. A call to the team's track and field manager revealed the sprinters had left the village to collect "personal effects", and the dope testing deadline of 7.30pm passed before the Greek Olympic committee released a statement asking for an extension.
Greek media reported the pair had visited their coach at his house in the Athens suburb of Glyfada and were returning to the Olympic village on a motorcycle they had borrowed from Tzekos when they slid on the road and fell off. Both were visited at the KAT hospital in Athens yesterday by the IOC medical officer Patrick Schamasch, who requested their presence at the disciplinary meeting.
Neither complied, as they were being kept at the hospital "under observation". That certainly describes their general position at this momentous point in the Olympic calendar.
At yesterday's press conference, Rogge maintained: "The fact that Kederis and Thanou are Greek will have no impact at all in the decision of the committee. We do not bear in mind matters of prestige or local considerations in making these decisions."
Asked if the incident was damaging to the Olympics, Rogge responded: "I think any athlete we can control, sanction and put out of the Olympic village represents a victory for sport."
Tzekos said that both athletes would be fit to compete, adding: "They don't have a serious problem." He is surely wrong.
How drama unfolded
Thursday 1500 (all times local time): Kenteris and Thanou arrive back in Athens from a pre-Olympic training camp in Chicago and head for the Games Village.
1815: IOC doping control representatives visit the Greek team's chef de mission and say they are looking for the two athletes with the aim of conducting a random drugs test at the Games Village. Neither Greek team officials or IOC officials can find them. Greek athletics team chief Yiannis Stamatopoulos tells the IOC that the athletes have left the Games Village to get personal belongings from their home. Athletes ask for extra time to return to take the tests.
2130: Greek television begins to report that the athletes have missed a drugs test at the Games Village.
2232: Hellenic Olympic Committee issues statement which confirms that Kenteris and Thanou failed to present themselves to drugs testers at the Games Village.
Friday 0015: Kenteris and Thanou, riding their coach Christos Tzekos's motorbike after visiting him in Glyfada, have an accident.
0040: With news of the motorcycle accident yet to emerge, IOC president Jacques Rogge sets up a disciplinary commission after an emergency IOC meeting at the Athens Hilton hotel "in order to investigate the nature and circumstances of an alleged anti-doping rule violation by two Greek athletes (unavailability for testing and failing, without compelling justification, to submit to sample collection for testing after notification)".
0100: Athens radio stations report sketchy details of the motorcycle accident.
0312: Hellenic Association of Amateur Athletics president Vasilis Sevastis confirms the accident, adding that the athletes are not seriously injured. The athletes are taken to the KAT Hospital in Athens where they stay overnight.
0730: It emerges that IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch has visited the two athletes in the morning at the KAT Hospital to summon them to a lunchtime IOC hearing, providing they are well enough to travel.
0800: A statement from the hospital reveals that Kenteris has "cranial trauma", whiplash and open wounds to the leg, while Thanou sustained a right hip injury and a muscular injury in the same part of the body.
0912: Jacques Rogge hosts a welcome-to-the-Games press conference in the Main Press Centre, which is hijacked by questions about Kenteris and Thanou. Rogge reveals that the IOC are still awaiting the results of the disciplinary committee hearing. He confirms no test was taken last night by either athlete.Reuse content