Thanou returns to the track

Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, who was banned from all competition for two years following a controversial doping rule violation on the eve of the 2004 Athens Olympics, on Saturday competed in her first race since the ban ended, at an Athens indoor meet. Thanou, who along with fellow banned Greek sprinter Costas Kenteris saw the suspension lifted late last year, finished first in a 60-meter sprint competition with a time of 7.28 seconds at an indoor track meet in the northern Athens suburb of Paeania. Kenteris and Thanou caused the biggest Olympic doping scandal since Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100-meter gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Games following testing positive for drugs. They were accused of missing a doping test and staging a motorcycle accident to avoid testers on the eve of the Athens Games. The pair were cleared by a Greek disciplinary committee but the world governing body for athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), appealed. The case was taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport before being settled ahead of the final hearing. Details of the deal that has allowed them to return to competition from December 22 were never revealed. «I feel very happy to have managed to compete again. Today’s [Saturday’s] performance doesn’t satisfy or dissatisfy me. It’s not the time I clocked that matters. The only thing I wanted was to find myself on the starting blocks,» said Thanou. «I haven’t stopped training for a single day. My mind was focused on returning to the track.» Kenteris had said he was eyeing competing in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and that he had already started training. Kenteris, who won the gold in the 200 meters at the 2000 Sydney Games, and Thanou, a 100m silver medalist at the same Olympics, were the country’s biggest medal hopes for the Athens Games. The two athletes and their former coach Christos Tzekos still face separate charges in Greek courts for providing authorities with false information regarding the motorcycle crash. Returning to the weekend meeting, long jumper Louis Tsatoumas broke his own indoor national record with an 8.17-meter performance, two centimeters over his previous best, set in January 2005 and then matched last year, also at the Paeania meet. (Reuters/Kathimerini)