Athletics’ drugs chief Arne Ljungqvist has admitted the cases of humiliated Greek sprint duo Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou will not be completed until well after the Olympic Games have finished.
Defending 200m champion Kenteris and 100m Sydney silver medallist Thanou dramatically pulled out of the Games yesterday despite continuing to protest they had done nothing wrong.
The move ended any hope the pair may have had of competing in front of their home crowd in Athens but – on the day the Games returned to their spiritual home in Olympia – at least gave organisers some respite from a story that has completely overshadowed the first week of competition.
Yet, according to Ljungqvist, chief medical officer for the IAAF (who are now handling the case), the whole sorry saga is nowhere near a conclusion yet.
His organisation are likely to formally suspend both Kenteris and Thanou at their routine monthly meeting on August 26, pending the outcome of an investigation into missed doping tests in Tel Aviv, Chicago and Athens in the past month.
“This case won’t be dealt with fully until way after the Olympics are over,” said Ljungqvist.
“People not being at the site they are supposed to be when our testers call is a very serious issue and needs to be followed up very carefully.
“But there could also be legitimate reasons why the athletes have missed the tests, so we must carry out a proper investigation.”
In confirming the case had been handed onto the IAAF in line with current regulations, IOC judicial advisor Francois Carrard said he felt there was enough evidence to have suspended Kenteris and Thanou from the Olympics, an act rendered pointless once the pair had decided to pull out.
“The athletes have maintained they have done nothing wrong, which is their right and it is true they have never tested positive,” said Carrard.
“But the disciplinary committee felt they had enough material and evidence to lead to a sanction for the Athens Games. In the end, the case didn’t get that far because the athletes voluntarily agreed to surrender their accreditation.”
At 31 and 29 respectively, the move almost certainly ends their Olympic careers and the future of their controversial coach Christos Tzekos, who also handed in his accreditation, is also open to serious doubt.
The IOC will continue to investigate some specific details of the case to establish whether any other accredited officials were involved and are particularly keen to analyse the role the Greek federation played in the amazing events of the past five days.
In their dramatic appearance yesterday, Kenteris and Thanou showed no sign of any injuries from the mysterious motorcycle accident in the early hours of Friday morning that resulted in them being hospitalised for five days.
That case is now the subject of a separate investigation by the Greek police, with charges possible that are so serious they could yet end up in prison.
Despite this, they continue to claim complete innocence and insist their actions were purely motivated by a desire to allow the Games to continue without the backdrop of scandal.
“With a sense of responsibility and in the national interest, I am retiring from the Olympics,” said Kenteris.
“I have passed 30 drug tests in the last four years. I declared all the facts of my case which state that I am innocent.”
Thanou, runner-up to Marion Jones four years ago, was even more unequivocal.
“The people who are accusing me are the ones who stood by me for photos after my victories; others don’t even know me,” she said.
“It’s a very hard thing for an athlete to withdraw from the Olympic Games, especially when they are in your homeland.”