blogenlust
8.15.2004

IOC buckles down


This is a good sign that the powers that be are finally taking performance enhancing drugs seriously.
Two Greek sporting legends were last night suspended from the Athens Olympics amid suspicion they faked a motorcycle accident to cover up a missed drugs test. Sprinters Kostas Kederis and Ekaterini Thanou were removed temporarily by the Greek Olympic Committee amid growing anger their behaviour had brought scandal to the sporting showpiece. The suspension is set to be extended for the duration of the Games when the International Olympic Committee meets tomorrow to consider their behaviour. Sweden's Olympic team have threatened to pull out if the pair - long suspected of taking performance-enhancing substances - are not excluded. One of the most bizarre sagas in sporting history took another twist when Greek police said they were investigating the alleged crash but could find no evidence or witnesses to suggest it had actually occurred. The pair's coach claimed they had suffered a smash when speeding to the Olympic Village to give drug samples. The affair is a mixture of mystery, confusion, broken rules and high farce. Under IOC regulations, the test the runners missed last Thursday is likely to count as the same as passing a positive sample and could lead to them being banned for two years.
Kederis has been the most suspicious athlete in international track and field for four years, since he came out of nowhere to win the Gold Medal at the Sydney Games. This doesn't often happen in track and field. Usually, it is pretty easy to predict with some success who the top athletes are in each race. Kederis surprised everyone in Sydney, and to add to his suspicion, he has virtually not competed on the international circuit, save for a winning appearance at the World Championships. Other than that, he has mainly raced locally, which is a sure sign that something was up. You only compete locally because you know the "locals" are helping you out. Thanou is in a similar position, she took the Silver Medal in the 100m at Sydney.
The circumstances surround ing the two missing their tests, 24 hours before the opening ceremony, are still shrouded in confusion. There is a growing belief that the runners faked the smash to try to divert attention from the fact that they had deliberately avoided giving samples to the drug-testers. Kederis may now retire rather than fight disciplinary proceedings which look inevitable. Until last Thursday, he was Greece's most popular man. Now he, and Thanou, are seen as traitors. Greeks are united in contempt for the pair bringing such shame on their country at an event they hoped would mark its triumphant emergence as a modern European country. 'They should be strung up,' said Litsa Sarantou, a bee keeper. 'No,' added retired bank employee Nassos Kafezopoulos. 'They should be shot.' The Greek media is equally hostile. Kathemerini, a daily broadsheet, yesterday called the saga 'a debacle, a scandal, a fiasco' - which is even more embarrassing given that Greece had promised to thwart such abasement and organise the cleanest Games in modern history'. Both runners missed a previous drugs test, when they told testers they would be in Crete but went to Qatar, and Kederis failed to submit to a test recently in Chicago. The IOC has introduced the toughest drug-testing regime since the Olympics restarted, in Athens, in 1896.
I'm really happy to see that the Greeks are just as upset about this as I am. It is unfortunate that this had to happen to their Michael Jordan and at their Olympics, but a clean games will ultimately benefit the Greeks far more than a tainted games.