Sprinters testify at sports tribunal

Sprinter Katerina Thanou and the lawyer of former Olympic champion Costas Kenteris were hopeful yesterday that a sports tribunal would clear the two disgraced runners of charges they dodged doping tests before the Athens Olympics. «Hope dies last,» Thanou said as she walked out of the Hellenic Olympic Committee headquarters on the second and last day of a hearing, convened by the Hellenic Association of Amateur Athletics (SEGAS). The two sprinters’ coach at the time, Christos Tzekos, said after testifying for more than 90 minutes at the closed-door hearing that the athletes had not purposefully evaded a test on the eve of the August 13-29 Games, or at any earlier time. [The two have been charged by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) with dodging two drugs tests before the Games, as well as the notorious incident on the eve of the opening ceremony in which the sprinters failed to turn up for a test, maintaining they had fallen off a motorbike. A prosecutor has charged them with faking the claim.] Kenteris left the hearing without comment, driving his luxury SUV out of the building’s underground parking lot – located across the street from the main Olympic stadium complex where he and Thanou, both hot medal hopes, failed to compete. «Kenteris, Thanou and Tzekos denied the IAAF charges and presented their evidence. I estimate that the final decision will be taken by the end of February,» said Costas Panagopoulos, the head of the five-member sports tribunal. Kenteris’s lawyer, Grigoris Ioannides, said he was confident that the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 200 meters would beat the charges. Thanou won silver in the women’s 100 at the same Games. «We are almost certain that the charges will be dropped,» he said. Thanou claimed the defense had presented new evidence she would not reveal. If found guilty, the sprinters face a maximum two-year ban. (AP)