NEWS

Kenteris declares: ‘I am clean’

Greece’s two top sprinters, Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, yesterday left the hospital in which they had been undergoing treatment since early Friday for minor injuries sustained in what they said was a motorcycle accident. They both said they were hurt by allegations that they had been trying to avoid an IOC doping test. Today they will appear before the International Olympic Committee’s Disciplinary Commission to explain their disappearance when IOC officials tried to test them on Thursday. «I want to tell ordinary fans, who have stood by me, that I am suffering a terrible injustice,» a pensive Kenteris told reporters swarming around the car that took him from the KAT trauma hospital. «I want to assure everyone that I never used illegal substances.» Referring to the angry reaction to his and Thanou’s apparent effort to avoid doping control tests, he said: «At this time, all those who are crucifying me are those who would come up to me and pose for photographs after every great success. But I want to add that after crucifixion comes the resurrection.» His training partner, Katerina Thanou, left the hospital shortly afterward. «I feel great bitterness and disappointment,» she said. «What has given me strength all these years is the love of the people and this love makes me continue the struggle,» she added. «I will continue to fight for myself and all those who feel they are Greeks.» Neither athlete took questions. Kenteris is expected to hold a news conference after this morning’s IOC hearing. The athletes and their coach, Christos Tzekos, have been suspended from the Games by Greece’s Olympic Committee (HOC) until the IOC rules on their case. They say they were not notified of the IOC’s efforts to test them. The Disciplinary Commission will issue a report and the IOC’s Executive Committee will then decide whether the athletes can take part in the Games. At the same time, a Greek prosecutor is investigating whether Greece’s anti-doping law was broken and is also looking into the circumstances of the motorcycle crash, as many believe it was staged. A traffic police source in Glyfada, the Athens suburb where the accident is said to have occurred, said the police report has been completed. It includes a statement from a car driver who late on Monday said he came across the two injured athletes and drove them to the KAT hospital. Another unnamed person said he saw the accident occur but was not sure whether the two on the bike were Kenteris and Thanou. Traffic police who inspected the site on Gounari Street reported they found no trace of a crash. An expert has examined the motorcycle. Kenteris, the 200-meter gold medalist in Sydney, said he had never used banned substances. As part of the prosecutor’s preliminary investigation into the case, forensics specialist Philippos Koutsaftis examined the two athletes on Monday. Rumors yesterday said that he did not corroborate KAT doctors’ communiques regarding Kenteris’s reported head injury. Reuters quoted an unnamed judicial source saying, «(Koutsaftis) did not find any injuries to Thanou and only minor injuries to Kenteris.»