NEWS

Fallen stars charged with dodging test

Over three months after the opening of the Athens Olympics, in which Greece’s two brightest athletics stars were extinguished without even competing, Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were formally accused yesterday of faking a traffic accident to dodge a drugs test on the eve of the Games. Apart from the Sydney Olympics sprint medalists, prosecutors Athina Theodoropoulou and Spyros Mouzakitis also brought charges against their controversial coach, Christos Tzekos, five people who claimed to have seen the supposed motorcycle crash, and seven doctors at the Athens KAT hospital who maintained that the athletes required hospital treatment for their alleged injuries. Tzekos was also charged with importing and dealing in illegal performance-enhancing substances. Kenteris, Thanou and Tzekos have denied the charges. All the charges are on a misdemeanor level, and are unlikely to result in heavy sentences, should the suspects be found guilty. However, yesterday’s announcement of the charges dealt a severe blow to the already battered credibility of the sprinters, who had long dismissed as an envy-driven conspiracy – even before the fateful August 12 «accident» – speculation that their form might be fueled by illegal means. Especially after their Sydney successes – Kenteris won the men’s 200-meter sprint and Thanou took silver in the women’s 100 meters – the two were feted as Greece’s top sportspeople, earning considerable sums in advertising deals and state subsidies. Some of the latter are already under judicial scrutiny. Part of the investigation, which was launched on August 13, one day after the athletes failed to turn up for a mandatory drugs test, has already been forwarded to Parliament for the house to debate whether Socialist former sports ministers are liable for prosecution in connection with state subsidies channeled to Kenteris, Thanou and Tzekos through an obscure Athens sports club. In that case, MPs will be summoned to vote on whether to lift the former officials’ immunity from prosecution.