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Mystery man Kenteris hard to follow

Daniel Howden | August 13, 2004

Olympic gold medallist Costas Kenteris has always been hard to follow but his movements over the past week resemble the plot of a Raymond Chandler novel.

Costas Kenteris His whereabouts became a subject of keen interest after he failed to appear on Thursday for a drug test requested by the International Olympic Committee at the Athens Olympics.

The following tracks his movements over the past week and events that have surrounded them:

It began with an innocent comment on Monday by Greek Olympic team manager Yiannis Papadoyiannakis that Kenteris was in Chicago and would miss the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday.

This surprised reporters who expected Greece's top athlete to light the Olympic cauldron at the ceremony. The statement was later withdrawn and by Wednesday no one at the Greek team would confirm or deny whether the athlete was in the U.S. or Greece.

As it turned out on Thursday, he was in neither. Instead his coach Christos Tzekos said he had stopped in Germany en route from Chicago to "visit his orthopaedic surgeon".

Tzekos said Kenteris and training partner Katerina Thanou had arrived in Greece late on Wednesday and then checked into the Olympic Village the following afternoon.

But when IOC drug testers visited, Kenteris had vanished. They demanded an explanation from Papadoyiannakis, who, by his own account, did not know where Kenteris and Thanou were.

IOC officials accompanied Papadoyiannakis, who refused to believe the sprinters had come and gone without permission.

"I wanted to see for myself that they weren't in their rooms," he said. "And they weren't."

A call to the team's track and field manager revealed the sprinters had left the village to collect "personal effects".

A dope testing deadline of 7:30 p.m. on Thursday passed before the Greek Olympic committee released a statement asking for an extension to enable the athletes to return.

Greek media reported the pair were on their way back to the Olympic village to give blood or urine samples but as Thursday edged into Friday, police said they never reached the village and were in an Athens hospital after a motorcycle accident.

The health ministry eventually said on Friday morning that Kenteris and Thanou had sustained no-critical injuries. They were later given 72 hours to appear before an IOC doping panel to explain their failure to submit to tests on Thursday.

Failure to appear on Thursday could mean a two-year ban.

Kenteris stunned the sport world with his Sydney Olympics gold medal but headlines quickly switched from "Who the Hellas is Costas Kenteris" to "Where the Hellas is Costas Kenteris."

Kenteris added a world and then European title to his 2000 Olympic gold but made only one Grand Prix appearance outside Greece.

In March, Kenteris was seen in Qatar after saying he was training in Greece. The incident led to criticism from Greek and international athletics officials.

The controversy continued when Kenteris withdrew from the Paris World Championships last summer and then went an entire year without competing - citing a thigh strain.

When he did break his competitive fast it was to run a low key 100 metres at the Greek championships in June, before dropping off the radar until this week.

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