Thanou barred from Beijing Olympics

Aug. 10, 2008, 9:41 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The IOC has barred Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou from the Beijing Games, saying her role in a drug-testing cover-up four years ago in Athens was "a scandalous saga" that had brought the Olympic movement into disrepute.

Thanou and fellow Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris missed doping tests on the eve of the 2004 opening ceremony, and claimed later they were injured in a motorcycle accident. Both eventually withdrew from the games and were banned by the IAAF, the governing body for world track and field.

The International Olympic Committee on Sunday excluded Thanou, punishing her for the 2004 doping incident and following a recommendation of its disciplinary panel. In addition, the IOC executive board invoked a second rule which bars the Greek on what amounts to moral grounds.

Spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the IOC made the decision "in order to send a firm signal of the IOC's moral consideration."

"There is a whole string - a list of events - that took place over the course of this sorry tale," Davies said. "This string of events really resulted in what the IOC sees as a scandalous saga that overshadowed the Athens Games and brought the IOC, the Olympic movement as a whole, into disrepute. Based on this, the board made its recommendation that she should be ineligible."

Davies said Thanou and Greek officials had been notified of the decision. She has previously threatened to the sue the IOC.

One of her lawyers, Nikos Kollias, said the sprinter would not file an appeal.

"We will not appeal her participation in the games. What matters now is Katerina's compensation," Kollias told the Associated Press in Athens.

In a statement, Thanou said the IOC's decision was "arbitrary and illegal."

"It is these totalitarian practices and decisions that bring the sporting spirit and the Olympic ideal that my country gave birth to into disrepute," Thanou said.

Thanou, who said she intends to keep competing, faces criminal charges in Greece relating to the incidents four years ago on the eve of the games.

President Jacques Rogge had said earlier that the IOC had reserved the right in Athens to open disciplinary procedures against Thanou and Kenteris if they sought accreditation for future games.

Using tough language, the IOC said Thanou's conduct was "totally incompatible with the Olympic spirit."

"The prejudice caused by Ms. Thanou is most serious," the IOC said in a statement. "It affects not only the IOC, but the entire Olympic movement - in particular, the athletes participating in the Olympic Games."

After sitting out her two-year ban imposed by the IAAF, Thanou returned to competition in 2007 and was entered for the Beijing Olympics last month by the Greek Olympic committee.

The hearing into Thanou's eligibility is not connected to her claim to the 100-meter gold medal won by Marion Jones at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Thanou finished second in that race. Jones was stripped of all five of her Sydney medals after admitting earlier this year that she was doping at the time. The IOC has not made a decision on the reallocation of Jones' medals.


Associated Press writer Demetris Nellas contributed to this report from Athens, Greece.