NEWS

Athletes ran but could not hide

The shock over the withdrawal of sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou from the Olympics under suspicion after they failed to appear for mandatory doping control tests on the eve of the Athens Games may have shocked the nation but it should have been no surprise to international and local sports officials. For many years, the International Track and Field Federation (IAAF) had been complaining that its inspectors had a most difficult time tracking down Greek athletes. According to IAAF evidence that Kathimerini described in its Sunday edition, for years Greek athletes would name the Olympic stadium as the place where they trained, the complex’s hostels as their place of residence and give the complex’s restaurant telephone as their contact number. This raised suspicions that local federations and officials must have been colluding with athletes and their coaches. The report cites one case when officials working on behalf of the IAAF and other organizations tried to conduct surprise tests on athletes at the Olympic stadium in June 2002. They found no one, but stumbled upon one woman athlete who raced away and locked herself in her room. The inspectors called on the police to help them open the door and spent the night outside the room, but in the morning she had disappeared. The Greek track-and-field federation, SEGAS, also reportedly told international inspectors that athletes were away – in Germany or on an Aegean island, for example – when they were in Athens. The report cites also the case of Yiannis Psarellis, a former triathlon champion and former director of this sport for Athens 2004 who worked with the IDTM company which conducts doping control tests for the IAAF. SEGAS accused Psarellis of working against Greek interests and of being a liar. Instead of supporting him, the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee fired him, the report said. Athens 2004’s lawyer alleged in court that Psarellis was the reason for a dispute between Greek officials and the IAAF that had harmed Greek athletics.