Coach confident duo will be cleared

Under-fire Greek sprint duo Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou will be cleared by an IOC disciplinary panel tomorrow, according to their coach.

Under-fire Greek sprint duo Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou will be cleared by an IOC disciplinary panel tomorrow, according to their coach.

Christos Tzekos remains defiant over his athletes’ innocence despite a growing list of ‘no-shows’ for mandatory drugs tests, culminating in their absence from the Athletes' Village on Thursday.

Their hearing was postponed for a second time in Athens yesterday after defending Olympic 200metres champion Kenteris and 100m silver medallist Thanou remained in Athens’ KAT hospital recovering from injuries sustained in a mysterious motorcycle accident.

After being given assurances the pair would be well enough to attend in person tomorrow, the IOC opted to delay the case for another 48 hours.

And once their evidence has been heard, Tzekos is convinced the IOC will take no action against them.

“It is never good when something like this happens,” he said.

“But we are happy with this decision because it gives the athletes a chance to speak for themselves. We are definitely confident they will be cleared.”

Kenteris is reportedly still suffering severe headaches, while Thanou, who is due to compete on Friday, is experiencing discomfort in her groin as a result of the accident, which came hours after the IOC reported their absence on Thursday.

The Greek media has raised intriguing question marks about the accident, in particular the absence of witnesses, evidence of a crash scene and a failure to locate the man who drove Kenteris and Thanou to hospital following the incident.

It appears the accident has not escaped the notice of the State Prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos either, with reports surfacing that he is about to launch an official investigation into the case.

However, the IOC’s judicial advisor, Francois Carrard, said the organisation were in no position to refute the medical statements they have received and because of the complex nature of the case, the three-man disciplinary panel due to sit in judgement on the matter unanimously decided it was essential to hear the athletes’ side of the story first hand.

“This is a very serious case,” said Carrard.

“We are still in the evidence and fact-finding stage of this procedure and in the interests of fairness towards the athletes it is essential that we have the chance to ask them questions and hear what they have to say.

“This is not just a matter of a positive doping case where we have facts, figures and ratios. Here there are a number of factors; whereabouts, location, addresses, situations of the athletes. This is why we want to provide the athletes with an opportunity to explain themselves.

“Their legal representative has given us his personal commitment that the athletes will be able to attend the hearing on Wednesday.”

If the decision goes against the athletes, they will be suspended from the Games and the case referred to the IAAF, although they would be able to appeal, dragging out an already protracted saga even further.

At least, though, after five days of controversy that, much to the IOC’s chagrin, has overshadowed the start of the Games, the case looks set to make a decisive move in some direction.

“Usually hearings like this are completed in one day,” said Carrard.

“Unless something totally new comes from the evidence, it will be the last day. One way or another it should be resolved tomorrow.”

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