No quick fix for Greek drug duo case

ATHLETICS chiefs have admitted the missed drugs test debacle of Greek sprint duo Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou could rumble on until December.

The case has dominated Olympic headlines virtually every day since the Games began a fortnight ago and has led to accusations by the Greek media that their athletes are being victimised.

So obsessive has reporting of the whole drugs saga become that Greek TV spent much of yesterday reporting home star Hrysopiyi Devetzi as the new triple-jump gold medallist amid rumours that Cameroon’s Francois Mbango Etone had tested positive - rumours that subsequently proved to be completely untrue.

The IAAF are aghast at the frenzy and have urged journalists to be more responsible. Yet, on the day another two Olympians were booted out for drug offences, the IAAF confirmed they are powerless to prevent Kenteris and Thanou competing once the Games are over.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said: “It is a serious matter and we realise the credibility of Greek sport and the IAAF is at stake. It is difficult to say how long [it will take], it could be weeks, maybe even months.

“There is a council meeting at the beginning of December and that is probably the latest date this case will be concluded. Until then, the athletes are free to race because no athlete can be suspended until they have had a charge levelled against them.”

IAAF president Lamine Diack, senior vice-president Arne Ljungqvist and council member Bob Hersch will head the panel which will collect information from sporting and legal bodies and then decide whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a charge against Kenteris, Thanou and their coach, Christos Tzekos, who all surrendered their accreditation to the IOC last Wednesday.

Under IAAF rules, the athletes could receive a maximum one-year suspension should they be found guilty of three ‘no-shows’.

One investigation into an alleged missed test in Tel Aviv last month is already underway and the IOC were to rule on two more (Chicago and at the Games Village) when Kenteris and Thanou pulled out.

The final verdict will be delivered by the Greek Athletics Federation, who will be responsible for the hearing should the IAAF panel decide there is enough evidence for a prosecution.

Yesterday’s development the Games will be remembered as much for doping offences as for sporting performances.

Already two track and field gold medallists have been thrown out for the first time in Olympic history, including Russian shot-putter Irina Korzhanenko who won her event on the hallowed ground of Ancient Olympia.

The number of expulsions has risen again with confirmation that Ukrainian rower Olena Olefirenko tested positive for ethamivan, costing her country a bronze medal in the quadruple sculls which now transfers to Australia.

Hungarian weightlifter Zoltan Kovacs has also been ejected after failing to provide a sample following Monday’s 105kg event.

Davies admits the succession of doping stories, particularly the rumour-mongering, is not doing much for the image of the Games.

The Athens Olympics are now set to cost almost €10 billion, almost double the original estimate and €3bn more than was officially announced last week.

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