NEWS

‘Crash’ wins sprint stars time

Injuries apparently suffered in a mystery after-midnight motorcycle accident procured a three-day stay of judgment yesterday for Greece’s top two track and field athletes, whose failure to appear for a doping test on the eve of the Games’ opening ceremony lent credence to longstanding rumors their past performance was illegally enhanced. An International Olympic Committee disciplinary committee said it had granted the extension to sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou – both Olympic medalists trained by controversial coach Christos Tzekos – after the Hellenic Olympic Committee (EOE) vouched that the athletes would have to stay in hospital for at least two days. «In order to ensure a fair process and give due consideration to the athletes, the disciplinary committee has decided to postpone the hearing until Monday, August 16,» an IOC statement said. The two sprinters, Greece’s best-ever, were admitted to the KAT Hospital in northern Athens a quarter of an hour after midnight, a full six hours after an IOC doping control representative visited the Greek team’s chef de mission to say he was looking for the athletes to test them. A hospital statement said Kenteris and Thanou had been involved in a road accident, and had suffered mostly minor injuries – although Kenteris was described as having sustained «cranial trauma.» According to Tzekos, the sprinters were at his Glyfada home when they learned they were being sought. He said the two borrowed his motorbike to reach the Olympic Village, but crashed on the way. Although a traffic police investigation was still under way yesterday, no other vehicle is believed to have been involved, while no witnesses immediately came forward. The EOE called an executive committee meeting for 3 p.m. today to discuss the case. Sources yesterday indicated that the committee would seriously consider withdrawing the sprinters from Greece’s Olympic team. Kenteris, 31, took the world by surprise by winning the gold medal in the men’s 200-meter sprint at the Sydney 2000 Olympics – where Thanou, 29, came second in the women’s 100-meter race – and proceeded to win the world and European championships. Since Sydney, speculation has been rife as to whether the two had resorted to doping. IOC President Jacques Rogge offered little comfort yesterday. «They are presumed innocent until a decision is rendered,» he told a press conference. «We have had widely publicized doping cases before; they have not damaged the image of the Games.» Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said Athens could not comment on the matter before the IOC reached its conclusions. He conceded, however, that «this is clearly not a pleasant case.» Synaspismos Left Coalition called for «light to be shed» on the incident. «The events involving the two Greek champions cast a heavy shadow over the Olympic Games,» the party said. «It is a disgrace.»