Posted on: 29/Mar/2011
Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou testified in court Monday over charges she and teammate Kostas Kenteris staged a motorcycle crash to avoid a doping test on the eve of the 2004 Olympics in a major scandal that marred the opening of the Athens Games.
Thanou and Kenteris, both medalists at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, are accused of staging the crash on Aug. 12, 2004, hours after they missed a doping test. The pair subsequently withdrew from the Athens Games - where they had been among the host country's main medal hopes - and have denied the misdemeanor charges.
"I have been waiting for seven years for this day in court, to explain how things were, as I experienced them and as they really happened," Thanou said outside the courthouse.
The trial started in January after years of postponement.
Speaking to the panel of three judges, Thanou reiterated the sprinters' account, saying that they fell off a bike lent by coach Christos Tzekos as they were heading for the Olympic Village after learning they had missed a doping test, and were taken to the hospital by a passing motorist.
Kenteris was not in court, and a lawyer representing him said the former sprinter would not be appearing due to family health problems.
"Costas Kenteris wanted to come and testify today, but his wife's serious health problems forced him to be in America," lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told The Associated Press. "He will submit his testimony through me."
Dimitrakopoulos said the sprinters had no reason to stage an accident.
"The time for them to appear before health officials to undergo a doping test expired at 7:15 p.m.," he said. "The accident occurred four hours later. So what motive did they have to fake an accident, when the disciplinary offense had already been registered four hours before?"
Earlier, Thanou said the defence had submitted new evidence that had come to light during the legal proceedings, but did not elaborate on what the evidence was.
"I hope the judges see all the new evidence that has arisen and issue a fair decision," she said.
The court adjourned the case until April five.
In the lead-up to the Athens Olympics, Greece quickly grew into a track and field power. But the Kenteris-Thanou scandal cast a pall over the effort, and another three of Greece's medalists from 2004 have since been sanctioned for doping-related offenses.
In an unprecedented move in 2009, the International Olympic Committee decided not to promote Thanou to the Sydney 100-meter gold medal that was stripped from Marion Jones because of steroid use.
The IOC said Thanou was not deserving of the "honor" because of her role in the Athens scandal.
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