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THIS morning as Britain awakes, Kostas Kenteris and his training partner, Katerina Thanou, will be asked three questions by the disciplinary commission of the International Olympic Committee. These will determine whether they deliberately set out to miss a drug test last Thursday when inspectors could not find them in the Olympic Village.

Thomas Bach, chairman of the commission, told me: “You can refuse a test, miss a test or you can give misleading information. These are the three different violations. We need to clarify all the circumstances in the hearing and we have to find out what exactly happened with these two athletes.”

It is clear the defence that Kenteris and Thanou will take. They will argue they did not know inspectors had called for them at the village and if they did not know, how could they be accused of running away.

Bach further pointed out: “If it is a mere failure (to take the test) then it is not necessarily intentional. Refusal means you know about it and you do not appear but you disappear. If you accuse someone of refusing a test then he has to know. And if you accuse someone of misinformation then he must have given wrong information.”

His words suggest that, despite all the speculation, Kenteris and Thanou may still have a legal get-out.

While Bach, a lawyer, would not go into what will take place behind the closed doors of the meeting room in the Athens Hilton, he confirmed that in addition to questions, the commission have documentation, believed to be reports by drug inspectors of a previous missed test in Chicago, before they make their recommendation to the IOC executive board.

Sometime around midday a phone call will be made to Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, who will be in Olympia watching the shot-put. Last night he had debated whether to cancel his trip but was persuaded by Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the organising committee, that he needed to be there. But he will fly back immediately when it is over and convene an executive board meeting to decide the fate of these two athletes.

Bach, who was also due to go to Olympia but had to cancel, accepts that this drama, which started 24 hours before the Opening Ceremony but has dominated the news since, and will carry on to day five of the Olympics, “is dragging on”.

But he said: “It is the first time at the IOC we are dealing with missing a test. That becomes more complicated and we need to inquire into all the circumstances. This is what makes it difficult for the outside world to follow.”

One reason for the case dragging on is that the commission felt they could not decide before hearing in person from the Greek athletes and it is only today that that can happen.

Bach compared the slow progress of this case with the swiftness with which the IOC dealt with the more normal drug case when at midnight on Monday it banned Nan Ayue Khine, the weightlifter from Myanmar, for testing positive for steroid.

Bach said: “There you have a positive sample testified by an accredited laboratory, so you have not to inquire. The executive board met at 9.30pm (on Monday night) and banned her. But there are a lot of problems with this case.”

For the IOC the problems started on Thursday night within hours of learning that Kenteris and Thanou had missed a test. Bach was at the lighting of the torch at the Acropolis that night and as chairman of the judicial commission was put in charge, along with fellow lawyer Denis Oswald and Sergei Bubka, representing the athletes.

But Kenteris and Thanou did not appear for the first hearing on Friday morning, sending instead a medical certificate, and the hearing was postponed.

The hearing on Monday was also postponed but their lawyer promised they would appear today. As if on cue the pair emerged for the first time yesterday.

At lunch time Kenteris walked out of the KAT hospital into a silver grey Mercedes coupe — Thanou half an hour later emerged from the same hospital in a similar car — and both events were covered live on Greek television as if these were state visits with police and security personnel clearing the way for the car through massed ranks of the media.

Kenteris, interviewed as he sat in the passenger seat, said: “I suffer a great injustice. With all sincerity, I have never made use of illegal substances. All the people who have been crucifying me on television are the same people who were standing next to me for photographs after each one of my great successes. I feel bitter and disappointed by what has been said.”

But then sounding like a preacher, he warned: “After crucifixion comes resurrection.”

Thanou, sounding more like a scorned politician, said: “The people’s love gives me strength to continue my struggle. I will continue struggling for the country that I love.”

Bach confirmed that all the IOC can do is ban the two athletes from these Games. But they will transfer the file to the International Association of Athletics Federations with a request for more action.

The IAAF require three missed tests, not two, unlike the IOC, and they do not consider last Thursday a missed test.

When I put this to Bach, he said with some passion: “IAAF should be very careful in making comments because what has happened in the past happened under the authority of the IAAF. We should discuss with the IAAF after this is over.”

© Mihir Bose

      

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