Trial delayed for Greek sprinters over Olympic crash

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ATHENS, Sep 24 (Reuters) A Greek court today put off the trial of Olympic medallists Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou in a case linked to a doping scandal at the 2004 Athens Games.

The presiding judge of a 3-member Athens misdemeanour court set the trial for next June 19 because their coach's lawyer was absent. The trial has been postponed repeatedly.

The two sprinters are charged with giving false statements to police after a motorcycle crash at the Athens Games. Neither appeared in court on Monday.

Kenteris, the 200-meter gold medallist at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and Thanou, the 100-meter silver medallist in Sydney, missed a drugs test at the Athens Olympics and later said they had crashed a motorcycle on their way to the athletes' village.

They said they crashed near their coach's home as they raced back to the Olympic village and ended up in hospital for four days. They never were drug tested during the Athens Olympics.

It was seen as the most sensational Olympic doping scandal since Canadian Ben Johnson lost his 100-meter gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Games.

An inquiry into the crash found discrepancies in Kenteris and Thanou's testimony, witness statements and medical reports regarding their injuries. One witness was charged with perjury.

If convicted of making false statements, the two sprinters face up to a 5-year suspended sentence.

They were acquitted of doping charges in a Greek athletics federation probe in 2005. Their former coach Christos Tzekos was given a four-year suspension for his involvement in the affair.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) appealed the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They settled out of court in mid-2006 and subsequently admitted only to anti-doping rule violations, essentially serving out their unofficial two-year suspension.

Kenteris has not said whether he will compete again. Thanou returned to competition this year and hopes to qualify for the Beijing 2008 Games.

Reuters BJR RN1720

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