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Hurdler denies 'knowingly' taking steroids

7 October 2008

Greek hurdler Fani Halkia blamed a "malicious act" by unspecified people for a failed doping test that ruled her out of the Beijing Olympics.

The 29-year-old Halkia insisted Tuesday that she never intentionally used banned performance-enhancing drugs.

"The action attributed to me is a malicious act by third parties that I was unaware of," Halkia said in written testimony to Athens prosecutor Costas Simitzoglou.

Her coach, Giorgos Panagiotopoulos, echoed that claim.

Halkia, who won gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was expelled from the Beijing Games after testing positive for the steroid methyltrienolone. The out-of-competition test was administered Aug. 10 in Japan. She was the 15th Greek athlete caught using the steroid this year.

"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 Beijing Games had been unlikely, anyway, because of an injury.

Simitzoglou is investigating whether the runner, her coach Panagiotopoulos and sprinter Tassos Gousis broke Greek law by taking banned substances. Panagiotopoulos and Gousis each deny any wrongdoing.

In an unusual move, the International Olympic Committee filed a lawsuit against Panagiotopoulos, 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."

Panagiotopoulos claimed his innocence in written testimony to the prosecutor, and said someone spiked the legal supplements Halkia used.

Halkia said she had 17 doping tests in the three months before the Beijing Games, adding: "This happened to no other athlete on the planet."

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