Appeals Court Acquits Greek Sprinters

Posted September 6th, 2011 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Two Greek sprinters who caused major embarrassment for their nation ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics have been cleared of perjury.

Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were acquitted by an Athens appeals court Tuesday of faking a motorcycle crash after missing a doping test on the eve of the Athens Olympics.

Their case has dragged through the courts for nearly seven years. One day after a prosecutor recommended that the two be acquitted on grounds of reasonable doubt in the crash, a panel of three judges issued the unanimous decision in their favor.

The two were found guilty of perjury in May and given suspended 31-month jail sentences that they immediately appealed.

The appeals court upheld the conviction of the athletes' coach, Christos Tzekos, on charges of possession and storage of illegal substances, but acquitted him of a perjury charge relating to the motorcycle crash. The court reduced his initial sentence of 33 months in jail to 12 months, suspended for three years.

Thanou and Kenteris both won medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and they were Greece's top contenders for Olympic track medals for the Athens Games. They were accused of staging the crash on August 12, 2004, hours after missing a doping test before the opening of those Summer Games.

The two spent several days in an Athens hospital saying they were injured in the crash. Under pressure from the International Olympic Committee, they withdrew from the Olympics, and both were subsequently suspended by the IAAF, track and field's world governing body.

The lawyer for Kenteris said the public was never properly informed of the facts, and he insisted the sprinters would have had no motive to stage the accident. They admitted to anti-doping violations and served their unofficial two-year suspensions. Both are now retired.