IOC look set to oppose Thanou bid


ATHLETICS:GREEK SPRINTER Katerina Thanou, who was at the heart of a doping scandal at the Athens Olympics four years ago, said yesterday she intended to compete at next month's Beijing Games.

"Thanou contacted us today and said she wanted to go to Beijing," a Greek Olympic Committee (HOC) official stated. "She said she intended to race at the Olympics."

Thanou achieved the qualifying time some 10 days ago and was already a member of the Olympic squad. It was unclear when Thanou would leave for China; the first heats for the 100 metres are set for August 16th.

Thanou, along with another Greek sprinter, Costas Kenteris, was banned for two years after missing a drugs test on the eve of the Athens Games following an alleged motorcycle accident.

Her decision will not be welcomed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who have said if she travelled to Beijing to compete they would examine her eligibility.

The IOC, who urged the two runners to withdraw from the Athens Olympics after their story overshadowed the start of the Games, have said they reserve the right to investigate her eligibility after she and Kenteris voluntarily withdrew from the Athens Games, handing in their Olympic accreditations.

The IOC have also written to the HOC revealing their intentions should Thanou travel to China.

Thanou, still facing charges in Greece for staging the bike crash with Kenteris, is not the only formerly banned athlete to qualify for the Beijing Games.

The Hungarian discus thrower Robert Fazekas qualified for the Games late on Tuesday.

Like Thanou, Fazekas was banned for two years for a doping violation at the Athens Olympics. He lost his gold medal after he failed to provide a sufficient urine sample.

Like Thanou, he qualified for the Beijing Olympics, neither the Hungarian athletic association nor the country's Olympic committee objecting to his participation.

"Fazekas qualified legitimately and we will enter him," Marton Gyulai, secretary general of the association, said. "It would be highly unethical if we raised an objection now that he qualified."

But the complications with Thanou do not end there. There is still the matter of the IOC's upgrading of athletes after it stripped the US sprinter Marion Jones of her five medals from the Sydney 2000 Olympics when she admitted to doping.

Thanou, a 100-metre silver medallist at the Sydney Games, now stands to get the gold.

But the IOC have also insisted the process of upgrading would not be automatic and medals would go to athletes who were positively clean.

A decision on Jones's medals is expected at an IOC meeting days before the Beijing Games start.