Greek sprinters Kostadinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou, were given a 48-hour extension by the IOC into their hearing over a missed drugs test. Pending the decision, they will be banned from competition.
Kenteris won gold in Sydney but could face a ban in Athens
The postponement of the doping hearing represents a victory of sorts for the two Greek sprinters, who were rumored to have intentionally skipped town and staged a motorcycle accident to avoid a drug screening last Thursday. Their lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said on Monday, after the decision by the International Olympic Committee was made public, "It is our first victory in our effort to prove that Greeks can be proud of these two champion Olympians."
The athletic duo could possibly face a ban if the IOC panel rules their missed test was intentional. The IOC committee spokesman Francois Carrard said the panel agreed to another delay because it wanted to give the sprinters a chance to defend themselves in person. The two remain hospitalized with cuts and bruises from the accident and could not attend the hearing in person.
It was the second time the hearing had been postponed since the motorcycle accident. The sprinters were originally scheduled to appear on Friday, but their lawyer had been able to obtain a delay.
There will be over 3,000 doping tests at the Athens Olympics
The Greek Olympic Committee suspended Kenteris and Thanou from the team on Saturday, pending a final decision by the IOC. Their coal, Christos Tsekos, was also suspended.
Dimitrakopoulos told The Associated Press on Sunday that he would fight any attempt to keep the sprinters out of competition. "The suspicions are not the reality," the lawyer said. "It is not true that our athletes tried to evade doping control."
An IOC disciplinary committee will examine the mystery surrounding the two athletes amid accusations they evaded a drug test at the Olympic village on Thursday. It is not the first time the star sprinters have managed to avoid testing. Only a few weeks before the Games started, anti-doping agents reportedly searched for the pair in Chicago, where they were said to be training. But when the officials appeared at their apartment, their was no sign of Kenteris and Thanou. In fact, until they arrived in Greece only a few days before the opening ceremonies, no one knew exactly where they were.
Head of the Greek Amateur Athletic Associations Vassilis Sevastis told reporters of the accident
Hours after Kenteris and Thanou missed the drug test on Thursday, they had a motorcycle accident that put them in the hospital. There was no second vehicle involved in the event and police are looking for evidence that the accident actually happened.
The two stars from the Sydney Olympics had been uplifted to national heroes and became synonymous with Greece's new self-confidence. Kenteris who burst onto the world stage during a surprise upset at the 2000 Games was expected to carry the Olympic flame into the stadium during Friday's opening ceremony before going on to win another gold for his country. His girlfriend Thanou was also expected to race to victory on her home track.
"What interests them most is for the Greeks to be proud of them and to know the medals they've won, they won them honorably," Dimitrakopoulos said of the two sprinters.