NEWS

Thanou denies taking drugs, says bike ‘accident’ happened

In marathon testimony yesterday before prosecutors investigating why she and fellow sports star Costas Kenteris failed to turn up for a doping test one day before the opening of the Athens Olympics, sprinter Katerina Thanou reportedly denied any wrongdoing. Sources close to the investigation said that Thanou, 29, insisted that she and Kenteris were really hurt in a motorcycle accident late on August 12 – which led to them being kept in the Athens KAT hospital for five days, thus staving off International Olympic Committee doping inspectors. «I came to testify on the events as I experienced them,» she told journalists after her eight-hour interview with the prosecutors. «I thank [the Greek people for their love] and I hope that at some point when all this is over I shall manage to repay them by running competitively again.» Greece’s best-ever sprinters and hot medal favorites in the Athens Olympics – Kenteris won the 200-meter race at the Sydney Olympics, and Thanou came second in the 100-meter – eventually withdrew from the Games before the IOC could throw them out. Thanou is understood to have asserted yesterday that neither she nor Kenteris were told that the inspectors were looking for them, that they had visited the Olympic Village earlier that day to get their accreditation for the Games and left around 4.40 p.m. with their controversial coach, Christos Tzekos. However, earlier in the day the head of the Greek Swimming Federation, Dimitris Diathessopoulos, told prosecutors Spyros Mouzakitis and Athina Theodoropoulou that the sprinters and Tzekos left the Olympic Village an hour later than they had claimed. According to sources, Diathessopoulos said he saw them exiting the village by a side entrance, and told the prosecutors that another two sports officials were with him at the time and could back up his testimony. If the athletes did leave the village some time around 5.30 p.m., their claim not to have been told about the test requirement could appear much weaker. Traffic police who investigated the motorcycle crash story and sources close to the investigation have indicated that there appears to be little evidence to corroborate the athletes’ claim. Kenteris and Thanou say they only learned about the test late on Thursday, and borrowed Tzekos’s motorcycle to speed to the Olympic Village. Thanou claimed yesterday that she never took performance-enhancing drugs. Kenteris has said much the same, although his testimony appears to have indicated that he could have been unknowingly administered such illegal drugs by his coach. The native of Mytilene – after whom an island ferry and an Athens tramline have been named – has severed ties with Tzekos, who remains Thanou’s official coach. Last Thursday, the head of Greece’s Olympics team, Yiannis Papadoyiannakis, countered claims by the two sprinters that they were victims of a setup. «If there was a conspiracy,» he said of the athletes’ assertions, «let them prove it.»