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Greek pair withdrawn from Games

Katerina Thanou
Thanou was a silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics
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Two Greek Olympians face possible expulsion from the Games in Athens.
• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou have been withdrawn from the Olympics pending an IOC hearing into why they failed to attend drugs tests on Thursday.

The Greek Olympic Committee announced the decision after a four-hour emergency meeting on Saturday.

"In order to maintain the positive climate in the Greek Olympic team we have taken the decision," said Greek committee president Lambis Nicolaou.

Nicolaou added that the decision had been agreed by a five to one majority and said he believed the committee should have taken firmer action.

"It was a majority decision to exclude Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou from the Greek team pending the IOC disciplinary hearing on Monday," Nicolaou said.

"In my opinion they should have been expelled from the team right now."

But the decision was criticized by the pair's lawyer, and by their coach Christos Tzekos, who was also suspended.

"What I want to say is that all our actions have been within the confines of the law," said Tsekos.

"We have nothingto be afraid of and I would like to thank everyone who supports us."

"This decision is provocatively unjust. The Greeks should know their champions are clean," added their lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos.

"They have never taken banned substances."

Kenteris, the Olympic 200 meters champion, and Thanou, runner-up in the 100 meters in Sydney, are due to attend an IOC disciplinary hearing on Monday.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Saturday's suspension would not change the situation.

"The IOC will continue with its procedures on Monday," said Davies.

"If the IOC finds them guilty of a doping violation they would be declared ineligible for the Games."

The pair had been summoned by IOC medical commissioner Patrick Schamasch to face a drugs tribunal on Friday.

Motorcycle accident

But both spent the day in hospital after being involved in a motorcycle accident late on Thursday night, forcing the postponement of their hearing.

They were expected to stay in hospital until Sunday.

The incident had shocked Greece on the day when the Games officially got underway.

Kenteris, one of the host nation's most popular sportsmen, had been expected to have the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron at Friday's Opening Ceremony.

Tzekos said Kenteris and Thanou could recover in time to compete -- if they survive the tribunal.

But a missed drugs test is usually treated as a failed test, which carries a two-year ban.

"They don't have a serious (health) problem. We'll see over the next few days how their health develops," Reuters quoted Tzekos as saying.

An official statement on their injuries in the crash, in which no other vehicle was involved, said Kenteris "sustained a slight head injury, a sprain to the vertebra at the back of his neck, a knee sprain and scratches to his right leg," according to Reuters.

Thanou suffered "slight abdominal injuries, a sprain to the right leg."

Swedish threat

Meanwhile Sweden's athletics team were considering boycotting the Games if Kenteris and Thanou were not banned, a team spokesman said.

The Swedes are in pre-Olympic training in Cyprus and spokesman Johan Storakers said:"We have discussed leaving the Games and not taking part and we are waiting for the decision with interested ears.

"We have not yet decided but we have seriously talked about it and will wait to see what the final decision is."

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