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Suspected Greek doper may run in Beijing

15 July 2008

Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, who was banned for two years after a doping scandal on the eve of the Athens 2004 Olympics, has made the team for next month's games and could travel to Beijing, officials said on Tuesday.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) included Thanou in the Greece squad after she finished fifth in a 100 meters race on the island of Crete late on Monday with a time of 11.39 seconds.

"She has made the B time for the team, so she is on it," Greece's chef de mission Isidoros Kouvelos told reporters during the preliminary squad presentation.

The B time is the lower qualification mark that if beaten by another Greek athlete in the same discipline would force Thanou out of the team, although that is highly unlikely.

Whether Thanou, who also won the 100 meters silver medal at the Sydney 2000 games, will travel to Beijing was unclear.

"Officially, she has now made the team, but we do not yet know if she wants to go to Beijing," an HOC official said on condition of anonymity. "Her statements so far have not helped clear up her intentions," he said.

Thanou and fellow sprinter Costas Kenteris were at the heart of the biggest Olympic doping scandal in years when they missed a drug test and then allegedly crashed on their motorcycle hours before the Athens games opening ceremony.

The pair, both major medals hopes for Greece at the time, were forced to withdraw and later admitted antidoping rule violations. Both Thanou and Kenteris accepted a two-year ban that ended in December 2006.

They face separate charges in Greek courts for allegedly staging the bike crash.

Kenteris has not raced since, while Thanou has run in local events this year with times way off her personal best.


Their former coach Christos Tzekos said last week he did not believe Thanou would compete at the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also yet to decide if Thanou should be awarded the Sydney gold after U.S. sprinter Marion Jones was stripped of her medals for doping.

Speaking in November about Jones's five Sydney medals, IOC president Jacques Rogge said: "This is not going to be merely an automatic upgrade. We want to upgrade athletes that we know are absolutely clean."

Kouvelos said Greece's athletes going to Beijing will be tested at least twice by Greek officials before they leave.

"No one will enter the airplane to Beijing without first having been tested repeatedly," he said.

Greece expects to send about 160 athletes to the games -- its second-largest team after 2004 -- with 141 having already qualified and several more expected to do so. There were 436 Greek athletes competing in Athens and 146 in Sydney.

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