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Greeks find drugs in raid on sprint coach's store

August 21, 2004 21:07 IST

Greek police found nutritional supplements containing banned stimulants and steroids in a raid on premises used by the sprint coach at the centre of the Athens Olympics doping scandal, a judicial source said on Saturday.

Christos Tzekos coached Olympic 200 metres champion Costas Kenteris and 100 metres silver medallist Katerina Thanou, who pulled out of the Games on Wednesday, six days after missing drugs tests, prompting public outrage and a criminal inquiry.

Officers from the EOF national drugs squad, investigating whether Tzekos had distributed controlled substances without a licence through his nutritional supplements business, had found ephedrine-type stimulants and anabolic steroids on Friday.

"Officers found 1400 boxes of nutritional supplements, most containing stimulants of the ephedrine class, some containing advanced anabolics," the source told Reuters, adding that an official EOF announcement was expected in a week.

"The legal grounds for the raid are that he did not have a licence to sell these products. But more importantly these boxes are the trump card in the whole anti-doping investigation," the source said of the criminal inquiry into the sprinters' affair.

"It both embarrasses and raises questions about all the athletes he trained because basically, their trainer had this great big stock of drugs in his shop."

YEAR-OLD CASE

An element that may perturb international sports regulators, however, is that 641 of the boxes of supplements had already been recorded as containing ephedrine by the EOF last year.

Tzekos's firm had been fined for stocking them without a licence and ordered to destroy them. But the company had appealed and the case was stalled in the Greek legal system.

Ephedrine, related to amphetamines or "speed", is not in itself illegal in Greece and is often an ingredient in widely sold nutritional supplements that claim to burn fat.

It is, however, on the list of substances the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) bans from use in competitive sport.

The United States has banned supplements containing ephedrine, linking it to deaths from heart attacks or strokes.

Anabolic steroids, which help build muscle, are also not in themselves illegal in Greece but are banned in sport.

The government, embarrassed again on Friday by news that a Greek weightlifting bronze medallist had failed a drugs test, made no secret of following closely an affair that has tarnished its otherwise impressive hosting of the Olympics.

"(There are) documents in files which verify Mr. Tzekos's company distributed unlicensed drugs," government spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos told reporters on Friday.

Kenteris, who has gone from hero to villain in the national consciousness in the space of a week, has publicly broken with Tzekos, the coach who transformed him into a champion.

Among mysteries which prosecutors are investigating is a late-night motorcycle crash which Kenteris and Thanou said they suffered hours after missing the tests and which put them in hospital -- and away from investigators -- for several days.

A judicial source has told Reuters that forensic tests had found no trace of the oil patch which Kenteris said caused him to skid and lose control of the bike.


Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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