World athletics chiefs today formally charged Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou with missing drugs tests on the eve of the Olympic Games.
The International Association of Athletics Federations had been considering the cases of both athletes in the three months since Athens bade farewell to the 2004 Games.
They now believe there is sufficient evidence to go ahead with charging the pair with doping offences.
A statement from the IAAF confirmed the pair would have to answer the claims that they committed “whereabouts information violations” by missing tests not only in Athens, but also in Tel Aviv and Chicago.
Athletes are obliged to inform their national authorities of their whereabouts at all times.
Christos Tzekos, the one-time coach of Kenteris who has been retained by Thanou, has also been accused of “distributing prohibited substances, assisting in the use of prohibited substances and tampering with the doping control process”.
The trio have until December 16 to respond and if Kenteris and Thanou do not answer the charges, or their explanations are rejected, they will be provisionally suspended from competition.
They will then face a hearing in front of the Greek federation, which will ultimately determine their fate.
Under IAAF rules, the athletes could receive a maximum one-year suspension.
The pair have been under scrutiny since they were asked to attend a doping test on the night before the Olympic opening ceremony.
Not only was Kenteris lined to defend his Olympic 200metres title, but he was also expected to light the Olympic flame.
However, he and Thanou missed the test after leaving the Olympic Village and failed to return before the time limit to take it had expired.
Their whereabouts could not be determined until much later in the evening – by which time the International Olympic Committee officials had departed.
During the course of an Olympics, athletes must pass round-the-clock contact details to their national Olympic committee chiefs, so they can be reached in the case of such an occurrence.
The sprinters were eventually contacted but asked for extra time to return – a request which was refused.
The World Anti-Doping Agency’s guidelines stipulate that requests for a delay in taking tests must be declined if the athlete in question cannot be continuously chaperoned by a suitable official.
Events took a further twist when they claimed to have been involved in a motorbike accident on the evening of their missed test.
They claimed the crash had happened as they were returning to the Olympic Village to take the test – of which, they insisted, they had been unaware.
They remained in the KAT Hospital in the capital for four days and, after being discharged, Kenteris cryptically announced that “after the crucifixion comes the resurrection” and promptly denied using banned drugs.
Neither athlete competed in the Games after being suspended by the Greek Olympic federation.
A criminal probe was launched and Kenteris and Thanou were recently charged by the Greek chief prosecutor with avoiding drug testing and faking their crash.
A total of eight criminal charges have been brought against the duo, coach Tzekos, eyewitnesses of the motorcycle incident and seven doctors from the Athens KAT Hospital.
The IAAF issued an official warning to Kenteris and Thanou last year after the trio were found to be training in Qatar, rather than Crete as they had told Greek athletics officials.
There was also a missed test in Tel Aviv and then shortly before the Games they missed a test in Chicago when they decided to fly to Greece a day earlier than expected.