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Culture

Rumors Rock Games

Doping rumors continue to make headlines at the Athens Olympic Games. Kostadinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou are not the only suspects. Doping is especially prevalent in field events.

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Doping is rampant in Astrid Kumbernuss event -- the shot put

Greece's Olympic 200-meters champion Kostadinos Kenteris, who faces exclusion from the Athens Games for failing to show up at a doping test last week, insisted Tuesday he is not a cheater

"I have never taken illegal substances," the 31-year old gold medal winner from Sydney told reporters upon leaving the hospital in Athens where he'd been treated since Friday for minor injuries suffered in a mysterious motorbike accident that prevented him from showing up for the drugs test last week.

Kenteris

Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris said he never doped

"After the crucifixion, comes the resurrection," Kenteris (photo) said referring to the rumors circulating in the Greek and international press that he had staged the accident to postpone the drugs test.

Kenteris and his training partner, 100m European Champion Ekaterini Thanou, who also missed her drug test because of the accident, learn their fate at the hands of the IOC's Disciplinary Commission on Wednesday.

"I am very disappointed about everything I have heard in the last few days, but I will continue to fight," Thanou vowed.

If the two sprinters cannot give credible reasoning for missing the doping test, they will be banned from competing in the Games. Their track events do not start until Aug. 20.

Boycott

Angered that the Olympics and especially the track events have been tarnished by the doping scandal surrounding Kenteris and Thanou, the Swedish track and field team vowed to boycott the competition if the two Greek sprinters were allowed to take to the starting blocks on Friday. The German team, however, rejected the suggestion.

"The history of boycotting Olympic Games shows that it doesn't change anything. That was the case in the Moscow Games of 1980 and again during the counter-boycott in Los Angeles in 1984," said Clemens Prokop, President of the German Track and Field Association.

"It is the responsibility of the IOC Disciplinary Committee to guarantee clean games," he said.

Tarnishing the image

Doping, Urinproben

Dopers throw a shadow over all the athletes

But that's not happening the way it should, argued Dieter Kollark, coach for German shot putter Astrid Kumbernuss. As in the case of the Greek sprinters, "three of the five world best have not competed abroad -- obviously out of fear of doping tests," he said on Tuesday, one day ahead of the shot put competition, which will be held in the historic stadium in Olympia.

In the battle for a medal in shot put, Kumbernuss, who won gold in Atlanta, is less afraid of the competition and more the competition's illegal substances. "In view of the historic importance attached to this event and its location, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) should have been more stringent in testing in the athlete's home countries. Now the Olympic spirit risks being damaged," Kollark said. With nine gold medals under his coaching belt, Kollark knows what he's talking about. Because the majority of medal contenders in shot put come from the virtually "control-free zone" of the former Soviet Union, the field of competition is often very one-sided. Since 2003, nearly 1,000 German athletes had been tested for doping, but only 43 in Russia, 17 in Belarus and two in Ukraine.

"I know that this year our rivals have practically not been tested," he said with an eye on the world ranking list.

Six out of 12 have been caught

Particularly disturbing is the statistic showing that from the last three Olympic Games and World Championships, six of the 12 winners have been banned from competition at least once because of doping. The gold medal winner from Sydney Janina Koroltschik and the reigning World Champion Andrej Michnewitsch, both from Belarus, have been caught with illegal substances, Kollark said.

The winner for the women's indoor shot put championships in March, Wita Pawlysch from Ukraine, tested positive and has been banned for a lifetime for repeat violations of the anti-doping regulations, as has her coach Aleksandr Bagatsch, World Champion 1997. The same fate awaited the Americans C.J. Hunter, World Champion in 1999 and world record holder Randy Barnes. Their countryman Kevin Toth, fourth in the 2003 World Championships, is waiting out his ban. Most recently, on Sunday, the Slovakian medal contender Milan Haborak tested positive for drugs and was banned from the Athens Games.