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Fani Halkia blames unknown third parties in her testimony

Disgraced Greek hurdler Fani Halkia blamed a «malicious act» by unspecified people for a failed doping test that cost her participation in the Beijing Olympics. The 29-year-old Halkia insisted yesterday that she had never intentionally used banned performance-enhancing drugs. «The action attributed to me was a malicious act by third parties that I was unaware of,» Halkia said in written testimony to Athens prosecutor Costas Simitzoglou. Her coach, Giorgos Panayiotopoulos, echoed that claim. The 2004 Olympic 400-meter hurdles gold medalist was expelled from the Beijing Games after testing positive for the steroid methyltrienolone during an August 10 out-of-competition test in Japan. She was the 15th Greek athlete caught this year for using the steroid. «I never knowingly took a banned substance, and I never knowingly used methyltrienolone at the Olympics,» Halkia said in her testimony, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. She said her participation at the Games had been unlikely, due to injury. Simitzoglou is investigating whether the runner, her coach and sprinter Tassos Gousis broke Greek law by taking banned substances. Panayiotopoulos and Gousis both deny any wrongdoing. In an unusual move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has filed a lawsuit against Panayiotopoulos, requesting his prosecution in Greece. But Halkia insisted in her testimony that her coach «neither gave me (drugs) nor ever discussed that option with me.» Panayiotopoulos also protested his innocence in written testimony to the prosecutor, and claimed somebody spiked the legal supplements Halkia used. «I can guess at (their) aims, but will not expand on that right now,» he said without elaborating. Halkia said she underwent 17 doping tests in the three months before the Beijing Games, adding, «This happened to no other athlete on the planet.» She also lashed out at the IOC, which she said «has no relation whatsoever with the Olympic ideals.» (AP)