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Sprinters’ Probe Begins – Witness Arrested

Track’s international governing body launched an investigation Thursday into a doping scandal involving two Greek sprinters who withdrew from the Olympics following a suspicious motorcycle accident hours after missing a drug test.

While the IAAF investigates, the two sprinters, Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou are free to participate in competitions, said IAAF spokesman Nick Davies.

Under IAAF rules, athletes face sanctions in the event of three drug-test “no-shows” in 18 months. The IAAF is also looking into a third possible case involving Kenteris in Israel in late July.

Meanwhile, Agence France Presse reports that a man who claimed to have witnessed a motorcycle accident involving the sprinters has been arrested on suspicion of making a false statement, police said.

Police did not identify the man but said he was a convicted criminal who had recently served an 18-month prison sentence for fraud and identify theft.

The witness had testified in a statement to police that he had seen Kenteris and Thanou thrown from their motorcycle in a crash on August 12, just hours after the couple had failed to appear for a mandatory drug test.

The arrested man was one of two witnesses to the accident who had come forward, neither of whom has been deemed credible.

Initial results of an inquiry have indicated either the accident did not take place at all, or that the athletes deliberately crashed the bike in order to give themselves injuries.

A medical expert, Philippos Koutsaftis, who examined the athletes, concluded that if there had been an accident, the motorbike must have been travelling at low speed, a source told Agency France Presse.

A statement issued by the hospital on August 13 said Kenteris suffered “cranial Trauma”, whiplash and open wounds on his lower leg. Thanou sustained abdominal bruises, injuries to her right hip and a muscular injury to her right upper leg.

The Associated Press says there have been reports that the statement does not match Koutsaftis’ report. He examined the athletes on August 16.

His report said he noticed a few cuts on Kenteris’ right leg and left elbow, and detected no significant injuries toThanou four days after the accident.

A report in the Ta Nea newspaper said that doctors in the KAT hospital where the sprinters were taken had been pressured by senior hospital officials to keep the athletes in “whatever may be wrong with them”.

As part of the government probe fraud inspectors with Greece’s Finance Ministry searched the offices of the sprinters’ coach for six hours Monday, seizing documents and computers from his food supplements company in Athens.

And last week, inspectors from Greece’s National Organization of Medicines raided the offices and a warehouse and confiscated some items that they said contained small amounts of anabolic steroids.

If the IAAF’s doping inquiry board finds sufficient evidence of missed tests, the case will go back to the Greek athletics federation Segas, which will conduct a hearing. IAAF can reject a finding by the federation.

“It will take weeks, but hopefully not months”, said the IAAF spokesman.

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