Fallen Greek hero Kostas Kenteris declared himself innocent as he left an Athens hospital today, facing questions from prosecutors, fellow Greeks and Olympics chiefs about his missed drug test and motorcycle accident.
“I am suffering a great injustice, and I want to say I never used banned substances,” defending 200 metres Olympic gold medallist Kenteris said as he got into a car and was driven away by a friend.
He added: “All these people who crucify me on TV are the same people who wanted to be photographed with me after every success. But after crucifixion comes resurrection.”
Kenteris thanked his fans for their support during the time he spent in the hospital.
Sprinter Katerina Thanou, his training partner, who left the hospital about 40 minutes after Kenteris, looked despondent and put her head back against the passenger seat as she was slowly driven out the front door.
“I feel very bitter with everything I have been hearing these past few days,” she said . “I am waiting for the IOC decision.”
Hospital patients stood on their balconies and watched the sports stars leave through a big crowd of reporters and photographers covering the nation’s biggest story of the Olympics.
The sprinters have a hearing on Wednesday with an International Olympics Committee disciplinary committee, which wants to know why they missed drug tests in the Olympic village last Thursday.
A few hours later, they were taken to a hospital with cuts and bruises suffered when their motorcycle skidded on a road.
The city’s chief prosecutor is investigating whether the accident was part of an attempt to cover up the missed drug tests.
Police medical examiner Philipos Koutsaftis saw the sprinters at the hospital on Monday as part of the investigation.
The IOC’s disciplinary committee twice postponed hearings while the sprinters remained in the hospital, giving them a chance to defend themselves in person.
Their lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said the sprinters want to give their side of a story that overshadowed the games’ opening ceremony and disappointed a nation in one of its most eagerly-awaited moments.
Kenteris, an air force officer, is the country’s most celebrated athlete and Greece’s best hope for gold in track at the Athens Games.
He was considered a leading candidate to light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony.
His career has been dogged by controversy and innuendo as he failed to take part in many athletics competitions.
Thanou was the 100-metre silver medalist in Sydney four years ago. The Greek Olympic Committee suspended the athletes on Saturday, pending a final decision by the IOC. Their coach, Christos Tsekos, also was suspended.