Coach carries the can as sprinters are cleared

Greek coach Christos Tzekos took the blame today for the drugs scandal which engulfed the Olympic Games as his star athletes Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were cleared.

Greek coach Christos Tzekos took the blame today for the drugs scandal which engulfed the Olympic Games as his star athletes Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were cleared.

Tzekos was banned from coaching for four years by the Greek Athletics Federation – SEGAS – who found him to have caused the pair to miss their tests.

The decision to clear Kenteris and Thanou of wrongdoing will be scrutinised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), who can either pass it or appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in an effort to have both sprinters banned.

If found guilty today they would almost certainly have been suspended for two years.

A lengthy legal case lasting more than two months was brought to an end in Athens when SEGAS announced Kenteris and Thanou were, in their eyes, innocent parties in the controversy.

The IAAF will have the documentation translated from Greek into English before poring over the details.

Considering the organisation described explanations from the pair and their former coach Tzekos as to why they missed the tests on the eve of the Games as “unacceptable”, the possibility of taking the case to CAS seems very real.

IAAF media director Nick Davies admitted the world governing body had been taken aback by the announcement from Athens.

“We were very surprised to hear the decision,” said Davies.

“Now we will wait to receive the case documentation and have it translated into English.

“Our doping review board will then study it where we will either accept or reject the finding.

“If we do not agree the case will be sent to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

Both athletes were provisionally suspended by the IAAF in December but they will seek to have that lifted now, enabling them to compete again this year, perhaps at the World Championships in Helsinki.

Kenteris, 31, and 30-year-old Thanou were caught up in a storm of controversy on the eve of the Athens Games when it was claimed they had deliberately evaded drugs testers.

Kenteris, a gold medallist in the 200metres at the Sydney Games in 2000, was the poster boy of Greek athletics and had been expected to light the Olympic flame.

His image adorned billboards throughout Athens before and after the controversy broke.

Thanou, now 30, was a 100m silver medallist from Sydney, and like her compatriot, was again expected to challenge for an Olympic medal.

Kenteris and Thanou also face a criminal hearing in Greece over the missed tests.

The pair have come under intense scrutiny since missing the doping tests after leaving the Olympic village the day before the opening ceremony.

Their whereabouts could not be determined until much later in the evening – by which time the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials had departed.

Athletes are required to inform their national federations of their exact whereabouts if they leave their usual home address, so anti-doping officials are able to contact them if they wish to administer out-of-competition tests.

They were eventually contacted but asked for extra time to return to the village – a request which was refused.

Events took a further twist when they were involved in a mysterious motorbike accident which, they claimed, happened as they were returning to the Olympic village.

They remained in the KAT hospital in the capital for four days and after being discharged were suspended by their national Olympic federation.

A criminal probe was then launched and, after two months of preliminary investigations, the pair were charged by the Greek chief prosecutor with avoiding a drugs test and then faking a motorcycle accident. They have not yet been tried, with the criminal case expected to be heard later this year.

As well as their no-show in Athens, Kenteris and Thanou were also said to have failed to give samples while in Chicago and Tel Aviv shortly before the Olympics.

Under pressure to do so they withdrew from the Olympics and handed back their accreditation and Kenteris announced he had terminated his working relationship with Tzekos.

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