IOC begins legal action against Halkia’s coach

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has brought a lawsuit against the coach of former Greek Olympic champion Fani Halkia who tested positive for drugs during the Beijing Olympics. IOC lawyer Petros Mahas told Reuters the IOC had already presented its evidence to Greek prosecutors to bring charges against George Panagiotopoulos for breaking the country’s anti-doping laws. «We submitted the lawsuit against Mr Panagiotopoulos and any other responsible parties,» Mahas said. «The IOC’s target is not the athletes, but the coaches who supply them with drugs.» Halkia, 29, who was a surprise winner in the 400 meters hurdles at the 2004 Games, tested positive for the steroid methyltrienolone around August 10 in Japan before she travelled to Beijing. She became the 19th Greek athlete to test positive since April, when sports authorities redoubled efforts ahead of the Beijing Games and now faces a two-year ban. It was the biggest of several doping setbacks for the Greek team, prompting top IOC officials to single Greece out for criticism. «The IOC wants to actively participate in the fight against doping in Greece,» Mahas added. «It is the first time the IOC requests a country’s legal authorities to investigate the criminal accountability of a trainer who doped athletes.» Halkia, an officer in the Greek airforce, has insisted her sample was tampered with. If investigating magistrates find Greek doping laws were violated, she and others could also face criminal charges. Another of Panagiotopoulos’s runners, sprinter Dimitris Regas, was caught for doping weeks before the Beijing Games. After losing 11 weightlifters, sprinters, a rower and a swimmer due to positive drugs tests in the run-up to the Games, the hosts of the previous Olympics had more athletes banned than medals won, two silvers and two bronze. The case brought back bitter memories for the country, still embarrassed that its top two sprinters Katerina Thanou and Costas Kenteris were expelled from the 2004 Olympics after missing a doping test on the eve of the Games. (Reuters)