Almost seven years after they missed the Athens Olympics amid a cloud of controversy, former sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou as well as their coach Christos Tzekos received suspended sentences for faking the motorcycle accident that prevented the athletes from getting to a doping test on the eve of the Games.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic medalists and their coach said they would appeal the sentences. Their case will be heard within 10 days.
Kenteris, 37 and Thanou, 36, were each sentenced to 31 months in jail for staging the crash, which they claimed occurred as they were rushing to get to the Olympic Village for the drugs tets.
?The court finds that this accident never occurred,? presiding judge Dimitris Lefkos said, according to the Associated Press.
Tzekos was sentenced to 33 months in jail. Seven doctors from the KAT public hospital who treated the athletes and two witnesses to the alleged crash were handed sentences of between six and 15 months.
Tzekos was also found guilty on charges of distributing banned substances. All the sentences were suspended.
?This ruling is a legal stain on the (justice) system, which I am certain will be wiped clean at the appeal,? Kenteris’ lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said.
Earlier, the lawyer said his client had been denied leniency by the court. ?It is simply unbelievable to refuse any mitigating circumstances to Olympic champions. That is granted to drug dealers and felons,? he said.
?And now we have this decision for two athletes as if they have not offered anything to the country. It is disgraceful and I am ashamed for my country.?
The trial by a panel of three judges began on January 12 following at least eight postponements over several years.
Thanou testified on March 28, protesting her innocence and insisting that the accident had occurred, while Kenteris never appeared.
Tzekos was present Tuesday and left before the sentences were announced without making any statement.
?We believe justice was not served or delivered,? Maria Kevga, lead lawyer for Tzekos and Thanou, said. ?Today, unfortunately, justice showed itself to be blind to the truth … During this entire procedure, there were no evidence heard that proved that the athletes of Mr Tzekos faked an accident.?
Kenteris, the 200 metres gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney
Olympics, and 100 meters silver medalist Thanou were acquitted of doping charges in a Greek athletics federation probe in 2005.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) appealed the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The athletes settled out of court in 2006 and subsequently admitted only to anti-doping rule violations, essentially serving out their unofficial two-year suspensions.